Jazzed Up

Napa’s historic downtown opera house has seen a lot of changes in the past few years. First, national venue and restaurant chain City Winery took residence in 2013 and gave the space a much-needed facelift, though City Winery’s tenure was cut short last year when they opted out of a 10-year lease eight years early.

That departure left the Napa Valley Opera House’s future unclear, yet now it appears the nearly 140-year-old building may be revived, as the world-famous Blue Note Jazz Club plans to take over the venue, located at 1030 Main Street, as its newest location.

“We are in final negotiations, and both sides are confident that we will close this deal in the next few weeks,” says opera house board chair Bob Almeida. “We knew that Blue Note had been looking in Napa for years, so when City Winery approached us about terminating their lease, we decided to pursue Blue Note, and things moved ahead rapidly.”

Founded in New York City in 1981, Blue Note Jazz Club is now an international chain of venues sporting the full spectrum of American roots music, with locations in Tokyo, Milan and, most recently, Hawaii. Considered a musical institution, Blue Note offers world-class performers in intimate spaces, allowing audiences a close-up experience with their favorite artists.

“We thought the vision that Blue Note is bringing is really the best for Napa and the best for the opera house, which we look at as a real community treasure,” says Almeida.

Almeida describes Blue Note’s impending plans in Napa as turning the City Winery model on its ear. The first floor, previously a restaurant only, will be transformed into Blue Note’s primary, seven-night-a-week venue and supper club, a cozy 150-seat space that will feature equal doses of nationally touring acts and regional favorites.

The upstairs Margrit Mondavi Theatre will remain open as well, and will host larger concerts, though Blue Note is opening the space to other local promoters and organizers such as Latitude 38 (BottleRock Napa Valley), the Napa Valley Film Festival and the Transcendence Theatre Company. Almeida says that spreading the events around through other producers will help the space become a destination for music fans of all tastes.

Right now, Almeida says, the lawyers are finalizing the lease details, and he expects Blue Note to take over the space by the end of February and begin routing its top-touring musicians to Napa soon after.

“The quality of the artists that we are going to get in here is going to be pretty amazing,” Almeida says.