Staff photo by Allison Potter
Heart and Soul performs at Bluewater Waterfront Grill on Sunday, Aug. 18 as part of the restaurant’s summer music series.
While the main attraction for restaurant patrons will always be the food, providing live music has proven to be a successful addition to the allure of a growing number of local restaurants around Wrightsville Beach.
Since 2004, Sweet and Savory Bake Shop and Café owner Rob Shapiro said his restaurant has featured a plethora of live local acts ranging from saxophonist Benny Hill to Americana and bluegrass band L Shape Lot.
When Sweet and Savory began showcasing live music during dinner hours prior to the recent economic recession in 2004, Shapiro said almost every -restaurant around New Hanover County was offering it. Since then, he has scaled back the number of nights live acts are featured to Wednesdays through Saturdays during the summer season at Sweet and Savory and at The Pub at Sweet and Savory.
Aided by the large number of local bands in the Cape Fear region, Shapiro said he has to be very selective when choosing which bands will play in his restaurants.
“You have to get the right style and type of bands,” Shapiro said. “In a restaurant the music is more of an amenity. When you have bands that are too loud or have more than three members … with amps and volumes that are too big it makes no sense.”
Mindy Stroupe, corporate communications manager for LM Restaurants, said the Oceanic and Bluewater Grill’s offerings of live music differ in terms of the style of bands that play those venues.
“For Bluewater we are looking for a lively band that will get people up and dancing to create a fun and interactive environment,” Stroupe said. “With the Oceanic we try to do something that is a little more ambience based ... to make it a little more relaxing and casual.”
The Sunday night live music at Bluewater Grill was such a draw that Stoupe said the restaurant’s Intracoastal Waterway front dock was designed to hold a band and the crowd.
Stroupe and Shapiro said they each have a working group of bands they tap to play their venues but that the group is always changing.
“Throughout the season we will rotate through about five to six different bands and at the end of the season we do a recap of which bands were good fits, which ones are still together and then as we are planning for next season we always go back to old favorites or bring in some new blood,” Stroupe said.
The frequency with which those different bands play at his restaurants is one of the key elements to ensuring the bands draw more people, Shapiro said.
“Having bands play more than once or twice a month doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “If they play more than about once every three to four weeks then the bands don’t draw as much. People don’t like to go to the same venue to see the same band all the time.”
Overall, Shapiro said providing live music does pay for itself and that the bands he brings benefit as well because they often book larger jobs from diners hosting upcoming events or weddings.