The eventual importance of the Club Room was not fully appreciated when it opened in March of last year.
Yes, it was designed to sell freshly prepared meals and to showcase local music.
Yes, it was designed to be a place where people could gather before or after concerts at the adjacent Clyde Theatre … although it isn’t serving that particular purpose at the moment while the Clyde remains shuttered for the time being.
But no one could have predicted how quickly the Club Room would emerge from the shadow of the Clyde Theatre and become its own thing.
The Club Room’s themed music nights, devoted to blues, jazz, and regional acts curated by WBOI’s Julia Meek, always drew capacity crowds.
“Literally out of the gate we were doing 200 to 250 people a night per event,” said Gregg Coyle, executive director of The Clyde and manager of the Club Room.
It soon became clear to Coyle and the Club Room’s owner, Sweetwater Sound’s Chuck Surack, that the Club Room was like a new shoe that pinched the moment it was put on. Interest in the place exceeded its capacity almost from day one.
“Chuck, in his infinite wisdom and grace, said. ‘Let’s come up with a solution for this,’” Coyle said. “He has always had so much confidence in what we’re doing.”
An expansion project was recently completed. When construction work began, the Club Room existed in one sort of world and now it exists in another sort entirely.
But more on that later.
New Brew for you
The expansion necessitated the repurposing of a former beauty school and an alley that separated two sections of Quimby Village.
The former beauty school is now the Crescendo Coffee and More, a coffee shop and diner modeled after the Sweetwater Sound commissary.
“We’re using the ModBar system, which is local,” Coyle said. “We’re using Utopian Coffee. We’re doing pastry from our baker over at Sweetwater. We have things from GK Baked Goods. We have things from 375 Donuts down the street. We’re using a bread guy from Markle. So we’re finding all these opportunities to help some local merchants and providers.”
The Club Room is now three times bigger than it was. The new stage is where the alley was. A new (and doubled) kitchen is where the old stage was.
“We elevated the stage, made it bigger and higher,” Coyle said. “And there’s a full dining room just in front of that now.”
Movable walls mean the space can be custom configured for various types of events, he said.
The seating capacity in the Club Room is potentially twice what it used to be, “potentially” being the operative word there.
Cautious with the Clyde
With Covid-19 still wreaking varying degrees of havoc on the nation, there’s no telling when the refurbished Clyde will be able to take advantage of its full capacity.
“We can open up and do more seating, we’re kind of following what our customers feel comfortable and confident to do,” Coyle said. “We’ve got plenty of space to socially distance tables and still have more capacity than we had prior to this.”
The pandemic closed The Clyde Theatre until at least the fall and it forced the restaurant to get good at something it had never done before: Carry-out.
“As a business, we had to pivot very quickly,” Coyle said. “On the 16th of March, we had to figure that out overnight. That’s still 50 percent of our business.”
Coyle said carry-out will become a permanent part of the Club Room’s business model.
“I learned to say a long time ago: ‘I don’t know everything for sure,’” he said. “And I’ve been doing this my whole life. What I do know is that we have really awesome customers who stuck with us through this whole thing and really supported us, supported all the restaurants in Fort Wayne that stayed open or opened back up.
“They come by to see the construction and say, ‘I can’t wait for this to happen,’” Coyle said.
The greater outdoors
For such passersby, one of the more obvious new features is the outdoor patio with fire pit. Restaurant patio seating is at a premium on the city’s south side, so south siders who want to enjoy their victuals and cocktails in the open air will surely flock to the Club Room.
Local music nights will resume forthwith, Coyle said. As for national concerts at The Clyde, Coyle isn’t so sure.
“We’re in the business of entertainment and fun,” he said. “So, if it’s not safe, it’s not fun. So for us it’s really about taking a temperature of what’s going on in the world and in our area. Northeast Indiana has been in a good place. But a national tour has to go from city to city to city. Maybe five different states in five days.”
Each city and state will have its own rules in place regarding COVID-19, Coyle said.
“National talks can’t happen until all that comes together,” he said.
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