Strong support from area residents, musicians, business owners and former patrons may just spur the encore they desire, as the owner of The Jinx attempts to reopen the beloved downtown Savannah bar and music venue that shut its doors in 2020.
That love of the establishment was evident Tuesday, when the Metropolitan Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of a special-use permit to operate the proposed bar, music venue and restaurant in the Streetcar Historic District, which is also known as The Starland District. The commission cast their unanimous vote after receiving more than 200 letters of support and hearing about 20 speakers plead their case for what they described as "community center", a "refuge" for music fans, and "hotspot of local culture."
Local musician Jim Reed said that without places like the Jinx, all sorts of acts bypass Savannah for other cities such as Charleston and Jacksonville.
"Let's be honest here, any time we can take a little air out of Charleston's or Jacksonville's tires, that's a good thing," Reed said.
The recommendation for approval will next go to the Savannah City Council, which has the final say on whether the currently vacant and rough-looking building at 2602 Whitaker St. can serve as Savannah's next haven for metal, rock, country and hip-hop lovers.
The approval from the commission came despite MPC staff's recommendation for denial due to concerns about late operating hours, noise and parking. Those concerns were dismissed by supporters, many of whom lived nearby, along with the Thomas Square Neighborhood Association President Jason Combs, who said the community backed the plan.
It was noted by MPC officials during the meeting that the business meets the parking requirements, due to property being "grandfathered in." They just had concerns about the amount of vehicles the business would attract. In addition, MPC officials said the restaurant and music venue would be able to operate without the special-use permit if alcohol was not being served.
Supporters, as well as the MPC staff, also noted the property is surrounded by commercial businesses, including Victory North, a music venue across Whitaker, and Starland Yard, which regularly features bands, a couple of blocks to the north. The building shares a parcel with a residential duplex, but the owner of that duplex also submitted a letter in support of the proposal.
A restaurant, Troupial, which serves alcohol is also located across the street from the proposed establishment and Attorney Joshua Yellin, who presented the petition on Jinx owner Susanne Warnekros' behalf, stressed that the new Jinx would be a full-service restaurant and presented the menu at one point.
The proposed hours of operation were also reduced since the petition was first presented, with closing time at midnight on the weekdays and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, rather than 1 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends, as originally proposed.
Warnekros' said the venue would be a different version of the former Jinx and that two long time employees would be joining her as partners this time around. She said the location was a good fit because many of the patrons live in the area and would be biking and walking to the business. She also credited the SBA's Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, available to venues affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, for making the reopening possible.
"We all miss our home so we're hoping we can get approved for the site and we're looking forward to being good neighbors in the area," she said.
Hosting a variety of genre-spanning musical acts, the original Jinx entertained music fans for 17 years before closing its doors at 127 West Congress St. in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Proposed improvements and alterations to the new building were approved by the Historic Preservation Commission in November. The work includes a roof redesign to allow for more ceiling height in the main event space.