Will new jazz club make Covington 'the next big thing in nightlife'?

Posted at 5:00 AM, Feb 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-15 15:20:27-05

COVINGTON, Ky. -- A 29-year-old entrepreneur with family ties to the local entertainment and bar business plans to open a jazz club in downtown Covington.

Casey Schneider said he intends to open Octave at 611 Madison Ave. in April. The historic building was once home of the German National Bank in the heart of the city’s Downtown business district.

“I think downtown Covington is going to be the next big thing in nightlife around here," Schneider said. "It’s always had the potential, but there weren’t people who were investing in it.

Schneider said he signed a lease Friday and plans to put in a new bar, sound system and a moveable stage into the building, which has a maximum occupancy of 250.

“We’re bringing in a new element to Downtown because you find live music there,” he said.

The interior, which was converted years ago into special event venue the Sapphire Room, has one large open room on the ground floor and a balcony that overlooks that main floor. That balcony may become a VIP seating area, Schneider said.

There are no immediate plans to serve food, he said, and the emphasis will be on a bar with a menu that will offer some beers that are hard to find in Greater Cincinnati.

When Octave opens for business, live music will be provided one or two nights a week, with longer-range plans that call for music four or five nights a week, Schneider said.

“I think people always saw the potential for jazz music in Cincinnati since the Blue Wisp closed,” he added.

The recent opening of the upscale Hotel Covington, The Hannaford bar at Pike and Madison, Braxton Brewery around the corner on Seventh Street and The Madison Theater concert venue -- all within a block or so from his location -- signaled to him that it was a good time to invest in Covington.

The Blue Wisp had been a live jazz institution in Cincinnati for more than 40 years when it closed in June of 2014 at 700 Race St., Downtown, its fourth location since it was established in O’Bryonville in 1973.

Dee Felice Cafe, a restaurant and bar at Sixth and Main streets in Covington’s Mainstrasse entertainment district, also offers live jazz about four blocks from Schneider's location. Felice, a jazz drummer who died in 1991, founded the restaurant and often played at the Blue Wisp.

Schneider’s father, Charles, owned Caddy’s on Pete Rose Way in Cincinnati until 1997, when the property was acquired and demolished in 1998 for the construction of Paul Brown Stadium. During its heydey in the 1980s and 1990s, Caddy’s was part of a booming nightlife and restaurant district that included Flanagan’s Landing and the Old Spaghetti Factory.

A jury eventually awarded Charles Schneider $3.1 million for his property, and he purchased the Surf Cincinnati Water Park a couple of years later. That investment didn’t go well, and the water park wound up in bankruptcy.

The younger Schneider’s stepfather, Tom Fessler, owns Pachinko, a well-established bar at 424 Sixth St. in the MainStrasse district.

Schneider said he booked the band Snarky Puppy at the Madison Theater -- a converted movie house at 730 Madison Ave. -- last May for a performance that attracted some 1,200 fans. Snarky Puppy, whose music is described as jazz fusion, won its third Grammy Sunday night for its album “Culcha Vulcha,” which competed in the Contemporary Instrumental category.