Walking into the Roadhouse Grille’s Copper Room, just a few yards from King George Boulevard in South Surrey, is like stepping into the Jazz Age clubs and piano bars of New Orleans, Chicago and New York.
The venue – offering live music several nights a week – seems to lend itself well to martinis and noir-esque fantasies of city life in the first half of the 20th century.
Integral to the sophisticated, low-light ambience created by partners-in-life-and-business Sharon Jacobson and Brian McIntosh are a long, elegant bar adorned by a statue of a sax player, comfortable padded booths and a Prohibition-era style ‘copper’ ceiling that gives the new venue its name.
Adding to that ambience are black and white photos of such influential jazz musicians as King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong and Charlie Parker.
But one historic photo had – at a recent visit – yet to be added. It shows a broadcasting group, The Rhythm Rascals, from Edmonton, Alta., sometime in the middle 1930s, featuring Jacobson’s late dad, Lloyd Mills.
Mills’ musical involvement has also been an influence for Jacobson, she acknowledged – memories of growing up hearing him play jazz on his C-melody saxophone provided a principal inspiration for the new venue.
“He had his own band and got himself through the Depression that way,” she recalled. “When he and my mom got married, he continued to play music every weekend and supported the family.”
Harking back to the old days of the 1920s and 1930s – when music was an integral part of the hospitality business – seemed like a good use for an under-utilized space, adjacent to, and accessible from, the restaurant’s atrium, the couple said.
“It kind of evolved as it went along,” Jacobson said, noting the room’s motto: ‘where Prohibition ends.’
“We couldn’t sublease it – we had to do something with it,” said McIntosh, who has been involved in every aspect of putting together the restaurant elements – including creating the bar top out of two solid pieces of maple and sourcing and installing the moulded ceiling pieces.
“I’ve never built a bar before,” he said, adding, with some justifiable pride, the reaction of the Copper Room’s bartender/manager Brett Parsons – formerly of the Fairmont Hotel, Vancouver.
“He said it’s the best laid-out bar he’s been in.”
Opened April 1 – and officially dubbed ‘The Roadhouse Grille presents The Copper Room,’ the restaurant/bar operation is actually an extension of the multi-room Roadhouse space – served by the same kitchen and with the same menu – which already has, as frequent visitors know, a very nostalgic vibe.
Jacobson notes that was championed by her late husband Dwayne, from the time they first purchased the operation in 2012.
Before his untimely passing in 2016, he delighted in adding old artifacts, including licence plates, records and concert posters, to the decor – and creating new pieces, including the one-of-a-kind fan, crafted of old guitar bodies, in the lobby.
Dwayne’s influence is there, too, in the Copper Room, Jacobson notes – even if it’s a little more muted than in the restaurant’s agreeably casual ‘Retro Room.’
“We loved the Copper Room at the Harrison Hotel,” she recalled. “Dwayne and I used to go there on anniversaries and other occasions and dance to the Jones Boys band.”
Naturally, live music is also a part of the appeal of the Copper Room, as evidenced by the electric baby grand by the window, played by a regular Roadhouse-featured artist, local boogie woogie and retro jazz specialist Dominik Heins on Saturday nights.
The Copper Room will also feature saxophonist Jamie Davis (Friday, April 26) with future dates to be determined.
While the intention is to have solo and duo acts provide the background ambience most nights, the Copper Room is also experimenting with more concert-like evenings, starting with a date by well-known jazz pianist/entertainer Diane Lines, and her husband and percussionist Tony Chamberlist, earlier this month.
“We put a $10 a head charge on that to cover the costs of a larger group,” Jacobson said.
“We weren’t quite sure how that would go, but it was very successful and Diane said she’d love to come out and play the room again.”
With a kitchen open until 10 p.m., and an 11 p.m. closing, the Copper Room is good news for locals looking for a slightly later scene than the usual dinner-oriented restaurant window, Jacobson and McIntosh agreed.
“It’s a great place for a date night,” Jacobson said.
Further good news for those who’d like to enjoy a hassle-free evening – and a taste of old-school style, without designated-driver worries – is the Copper Room’s door-to-door limousine service (available by advance booking only), personally chauffeured by McIntosh in his vintage 1984 Cadillac limo.
The service is by donation for Peninsula residents, he added, with proceeds forwarded to the restaurant’s charity, Avalon Women’s Centre, White Rock.
“They’re not government funded, so we help wherever we can,” Jacobson said.
For more, visit roadhousegrille.ca