In a craptacular economy full of nightlife (and daylife) shenanigans, optimism is a beautiful thing. Though 5285 Dean Martin Drive was previously the home to 1) a Mexican restaurant, 2) a strip club, 3) a live music venue and 4) a short-lived afterhours spot, someone’s willing to take a chance on the property again. And this time, it’s got soul—soul music and food, that is. Should we give the property another chance?
Officially opening its doors on September 3, Soulzburry kicked off with a comedy night, followed by a Labor Day Weekend of parties culminating with a relatively successful Sunday night Old Skool “That’s Entertainment” reunion featuring DJ R.O.B. and Frankie.
The crew at Soulzburry and Shy Boy Media are putting some serious effort into re-creating the space: a fresh coat of paint, a normal-sized stage and a necessary upgrade with a new Martin lighting rig and Meyer Sound system. And construction on a new kitchen is nearing completion (the 12-year-old property’s original kitchen was removed and turned into a dressing room when the venue became Hidden Secrets gentlemen’s club).
Wait. Why does a nightclub need a kitchen? Because operator Bill Miller and company are realistic that their independent club cannot stand alone as purely a nightlife destination, but will become Soulzburry Soulfood Gourmet Dining and Niteclub. “We know we have to have a 16-hour day in here, and that’s all there is to it if we’re going to survive,” Miller says.
The group is delving into an almost untouched cuisine near the Strip. We’re talking cornbread, gumbo, fried okra, pig’s feet, chitlins and neckbones, all washed down with some sweet tea or Kool-Aid. For those of you who’ve never eaten in the deep South, that’s good ol’ fashioned soul food.
So what will keep Soulzburry (named after an 18th-century ship featured in a story written by Miller) sailing along where other endeavors in the same location have failed? “I can only base things on what my skills are,” Miller says. “I’ve had clubs in the past in Seattle and different places, so I know what kind of works.” Miller says he also found success in the boxing business, which helped fund Soulzburry.
“Our motto is, ‘We don’t sell food, we sell flavor,’ he continues. “That’s the theme for the supper club part of our business.” Calling the overall menu “gourmet soul food,” Miller says the “high-end formulas” and recipes will keep it classy. House pianists should also help create an upscale ambiance for the supper club. “We actually think our food is going to be up to par with our nightclub in terms of receipts,” Miller says.
So can this restaurant-by-day, club-by-night formula work? It seems to for RumJungle and Foundation Room, but we’re still getting over Trader Vic’s, SushiSamba, Crustacean/Prana Lounge, and its later incarnation, Asia. But Miller is confident Soulzburry will attract a mixture of locals and tourists. “We have that down-home type vibe, we’re independent and we’re right across from the Strip.” He adds that, though the restaurant hasn’t even opened yet, they already have nearly a full week’s schedule of events planned in the evenings to start things off right.
In an effort to diversity further, Miller’s nightlife plan for Soulzburry includes Latin nights, steppin’, hip-hop and R&B, plus a bit of pop. “We’re not doing hardcore hip-hop at all,” Miller says, though Sundays will focus on old-school hip-hop, funk and breaks. Saturdays will feature Bass Ment afterhours with house and techno.
Sounds like a little something for everyone.
And what about the Paranormal Investigation Team of Nevada’s (PITON) evidence of spooky activity at the venue? “I’ve heard something about that,” says Miller. “But the haunted part is actually good because sometimes at night, we play the music and the haunted get to dance, too!”