Breaking news: Vaunted jazz room Churchill Grounds to close, relocate at the end of July

Saxophonist Will Scruggs on the Whisper Room stage at Churchill Grounds.
Saxophonist Will Scruggs on the Whisper Room stage at Churchill Grounds.

Churchill Grounds, which has served as a nurturing ground and showcase for Atlanta jazz for nearly two decades, will close at its Peachtree Street space next to the Fox Theatre on July 31. Owner Sam Yi said in a Facebook post that he hopes to open a new Churchill in the near future.

“It’s been almost two decades since I had this crazy idea of having a jazz cafe in Atlanta,” Yi said. “As your humble servant who loves jazz from the bottom of my heart, [I] want to inform you that Churchill Grounds Jazz Cafe will no longer operate from its current Fox location. I am looking for other locations and possible investors who love this music to carry a new Churchill in the near future.”

After a rent increase in 2013, Yi downsized the club when he closed the “Whisper Room” performance space, in the hope of revitalizing the room. Yi said at the time that the performance space wasn’t generating enough revenue to keep it open. Yi had programmed jazz in the smaller main room for six years before opening the Whisper Room in 2003.

“The other side wasn’t generating money,” Yi told ArtsATL at the time. “I had to put in a lot of my own money to keep it afloat. I just came to the realization that I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Churchill has served as a proving ground for local jazz musicians, particularly with its famed jam sessions, now held on Thursday nights.

Yi said in his Facebook post that the Churchill Grounds “family” includes “the folks who [have] worked here, the musicians who gave everything they had to this art form, and those dedicated patrons who have supported us all these years. I want to thank each and every one of you who gave part of yourselves to keep this going for all these years. Without all of you and the Good Lord above, this would have never worked.”

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