Photo by M.J. Subiria Arauz
Bill “Jet” Proctor, owner of Jazz Café ATL in Morrow, leans next to his bar. Proctor said the restaurant has four sections including the bar, the dance area, the main jazz area and the blue room where patrons can eat and enjoy the sound of jazz.
It’s the night life, and the thrill of the social aspect and the experience of running a restaurant that keeps a local restaurateur fixated on the business.
Bill “Jet” Proctor, owner of Jazz Café ATL in Morrow, said his restaurant targets a distinct crowd of people, 35 and older, though younger folks are welcome.
“What attracted me to metro Atlanta was the large middle class group of people who live here, and are able to have a little extra money to eat out,” he said
The restaurant, he said, is what he calls an eating and entertainment complex that provides an array of Southern and Cajun cuisine, live jazz bands, dancing, and a full bar. The restaurant is 7,000 square feet, and includes a dance room, a main jazz room, and a blue room adjacent to the jazz room, where people can enjoy listening to a live band while they eat. The restaurant can accommodate up to 200 guests, he said.
It is located at 1225 Mount Zion Road, with Merchants Way as the nearest cross street. The hours of operation are Monday through Thursday, from 6 p.m., to midnight; Friday and Saturday, from 7 p.m., to 2 a.m.; and Sunday, from 3 p.m., to 9 p.m.
Throughout the week, said the owner, the restaurant has a variety of entertainment activities for patrons. Monday night guests have a chance to watch “Monday Night Football,” and also enjoy line-dancing lessons. Those who wish to participate in the lessons, must pay $5.
Tuesday is Karaoke night, starting at 7 p.m. Jazz jam sessions take over on Thursdays, he said. Chicago-style stepping lessons are given every Sunday, from 3 p.m., to 8 p.m., and that also costs $5 per person.
Live jazz is available on Fridays and Saturdays, and patrons must dress up. There are no jeans or casual wear allowed on Fridays and Saturdays, he stressed.
The restaurant cooks fish and shrimp, though it specializes in steaks, pork chops and ribs, said Proctor. The side items include: collard greens, macaroni and cheese, red beans and rice, and hush puppies.
Crab cakes are the restaurant’s most popular food item, he said. “We sold out of crab cakes two weeks in a row,” he added. “We won’t sell out anymore.”
Some of the restaurant’s popular Cajun menu items are the gumbo and jambalaya entrees, he said. “We give you a lot of food,” he boasted. “When we give you an entree ... you are going to be full.”
Dinner entrees can range from $14, to $26, he added. Menu items are named after jazz legends, such as the Lena platter, after Lena Horne, or the Miles platter, after Miles Davis. he said. Platters feed more than one person, and cost an average of $39.99, he said.
He said he doesn’t believe in valet parking, so parking is free at his eatery.
His “soft opening” was held on Oct. 14, and was a hit, with 140 people attending, he said.
He said he had anticipated that it would take about a month to get a reasonable number of patrons in the door, but that the restaurant has been busy since opening day. “At least 600 people came through the doors the first three days of opening,” he said with a smile.
Proctor said he owned a restaurant called Jazz Café in Ontario, Calif., from 2004, to 2009, and it was very successful for a while. He said the war in Iraq and the downturn in the economy in 2008 didn’t help his business. “It got really bad for the middle class,” he said, of his target audience.
He said he had reasons to come to metro area, because his cousin lives in Locust Grove and his best friend is in Roswell. He liked metro Atlanta, he said, and began searching for areas where he could bring his café back to life.
He said he finally set his sights on Morrow, because the building he was interested in was on Mount Zion Road, a very busy street, and it was right across from Southlake Mall.
He said it took four months and an investment of about $50,000 for the café to open its doors.
Proctor said he hails from New York, N.Y., and owned three restaurants with similar themes there. He started with The Renaissance in 1973 in Queens, and eventually became owner of Tiffany’s and Sassy’s in that borough.
He said he has always chosen to locate his restaurants in the outskirts of metropolitan areas, because people avoid taking long walks to a facility, and parking is always free.
“I am lucky to be in a very nice county, and a very nice city,” said Proctor.