The seductive aura at Vonn Jazz & Blues extends beyond the music.
Red velvet curtains, candlelit tables and glittering chandeliers provide a vibrant, eye-catching backdrop to the soulful performers who take center stage at the supperclub. Nearly early every inch of the lavish space was decorated by owner Yavonne Sarber, whose first career was in interior design.
She stumbled into the music scene while running a combination design studio, boutique and caf in a Worthington strip mall. Sarber was looking for someone to entertain her design clients at a Christmas party several years ago when she met Adria Shahid, a local jazz vocalist, at the hair salon.
"She was sitting in one chair and I was sitting in another chair and we started talking," Sarber said. The two shared a deep love for jazz, and after Sarber heard Shahid sing she quickly booked her to perform at several private holiday parties and events.
When Sarber later decided to transform her coffee shop into a 70-seat cocktail lounge, Shahid was the first person she called.
The singer introduced Sarber to a collective of jazz musicians in the community.
"I had no idea that Columbus was so rich in music," Sarber said. She also discovered that the musicians were hungry for a sophisticated spot to perform.
"You had some other places, but they were just typical bars," said A.C. Collins, a saxophonist and regular performer at Vonn Jazz. "Before she did this, there was nothing in Columbus to compare."
The city's jazz fans embraced Sarber's vision, too.
As Von Jazz-originally in a small plaza on Rt. 161 in Worthington-grew in popularity, so did the crowds. On many nights, a line of customers snaked outside in the parking lot.
In April 2009-14 months after the lounge's initial opening-Vonn Jazz moved to its current and much roomier home on Columbus' Far North Side. Sarber chose the new site at 245 E. Campus View Blvd. near Worthington with a broad audience in mind.
"I feel that being in the suburbs the way we are is what has made us work, because we pull from everybody," Sarber said. "You can go to the East Side to hear a lot of these musicians, but a lot of people won't go to the East Side. It's out of their comfort zone."
The supperclub offers live music every night of the week and is open year round, including holidays. Performers range from local jazz and blues bands to national artists.
"The most important thing is (Sarber) set a precedent that the vocalists would always be spotlighted," Shahid said. "She gave the vocalists a voice, literally."
Although music is the main attraction at Vonn Jazz, dinner and drinks are another big draw. The main dining room offers a front-and-center view of the stage, but there are several connecting lounge-like spaces that can be reserved for larger parties.
Sarber used her decorating talents to create a cozy, intimate feel.
"When I would (decorate) people's homes, they would want really nice things, but it has to be livable and comfortable," she said. "That's the way we want it here."
Music can easily be heard from any seat in the house, including at the main bar which offers a close-up view of the performers and easy access to the dance floor.
Chef Mike Black brought a Southern-Creole twist to the menu when he began work at Vonn Jazz earlier this year. Popular favorites include chicken and waffles; shrimp and grits; and crabcakes, he said. "I'm doing a little spin on classic dishes," Black said.
Whether it's the food-or the music-that lures them in, Sarber wants her customers to walk away feeling wowed.
"This typically is a big night out," she said, "and they're coming to have an experience."