Revamped Longbranch to reopen

Raleigh nightclub closed last year

Staff WriterDecember 10, 2009 

— There's not much on the longbranchraleigh.com Web site yet, but it gets the point across: "Raleigh's Legendary Nightclub Is Back ..."

That would be the Longbranch, which is reopening this month. The 3,000-capacity nightclub on Creekside Drive near the Beltline has been shuttered since the summer of 2008, when it closed amid bankruptcy, debt and cash-flow problems.

"We'll probably do a soft opening in the next few weeks," said general manager Dan Wood, who is also one of six ownership partners. "Then we'll get ready for New Year's."

Original owner Fred Wilburn is not one of the revived club's owners. The new owners signed a lease in August, and they're spending an estimated $150,000 on repairs and remodeling.

In addition to the main country music room, the Longbranch will still have the smaller top-40 and disco rooms. There also will be a new sports bar. Other additions include carpeting, brickwork and a 105-foot-long bar just inside the front entrance.

"Other than that, it will be back to the way it was," Wood said. "It's still got the Longbranch atmosphere, just with a few changes."

During its initial 26-year run, the Longbranch was a key night spot for the Triangle as well as the country-music industry. The club caught many country stars on their way up to big arenas, including Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Keith Urban and Alan Jackson.

But the club ran into financial trouble in 2006, after management had to spend $300,000 to address fire- and building-code violations. The Longbranch fell behind on rent, and crowds dwindled as the economic recession took hold. It closed in July 2008.

Wood says the rent is cheaper, and that management will have an austerity budget in place.

"Mostly, we've just got to keep overhead down," he said. "We'll probably just be open Friday and Saturday, unless there's a national act in during the week."

As to when national acts might start turning up on the Longbranch stage, that probably won't happen until after the first of the year.

"I've started booking some local acts," Wood says. "Nothing too big, because I'm still not sure when we'll open. It depends on how inspections go with the city. But whatever they want us to do, we'll do it."

david.menconi@newsobserver.com or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat or 919-829-4759

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