Opened in 1939, Lenox Lounge was one of the most popular Black jazz clubs in New York City. On the corner of Lenox Ave and 125th Street in Harlem, the historic lounge hosted African-American legends such as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, John Coltrane and even Malcolm X. Although the club had a major renovation in 2000, it‘s struggled in the past few years as rent prices and gentrification threatens the area. Current owner, Al Reed, told the New York Daily News that his lease ends in June and that he does not plan to renew it due to the financial burden. "I'm not selling the place; the landlord is increasing the rent, that I can't pay," he said.
The landlord is spiking the rent to a lofty $20,000 a month, which is twice what Reed has been paying. "There's no way I can do that...I'm not mad. That's their business decision. They wanted to make some money," said the 72-year-old former Post Office worker and retired cop. It’s been reported that interested buyers include restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson and a partner of Robert De Niro. But, whoever decides to take over the pricey lease will have to work with Reed, who plans to still have a hand in Lenox’s legacy. "I am Lenox Lounge, and I will be Lenox Lounge for quite some time. And if they want Lenox Lounge, they want me."
Who would be a good fit to own and run this iconic relic? Also, has the gentrification in Harlem (and in other traditionally Black communities turned "trendy" neighborhoods) reached a tipping point?