The historic Dreamland building in Oak Bluff may soon be more than just a fading facade seen from the street.
JB Blau, a well-known Island businessman and restaurant owner, has announced plans to turn the second floor of the building into a music and entertainment spot. A grand opening is planned for July 13 with a group of Island bands, followed by a summer-long lineup of entertainment that includes comedy acts, a CD release party and more musical events.
“In the 1900s it was the Dreamland ballroom,” Mr. Blau said. “We are kind of bringing that back.”
Mr. Blau owns both Sharky’s Cantina restaurants on the Island and last July opened the Martha’s Vineyard Chowder House in the ground floor space at the Dreamland. The building is owned by Oak Bluffs businessmen Mark and Mike Wallace. Mr. Blau’s business partner is chef Alex Nagi.
The 5,300-square-foot upstairs room has been renovated and restored with white walls, high ceiling beams, an open floor plan and a private front room with French doors.
Mr. Blau said the plan calls for using the space for weddings, fund-raising events, comedy shows, theatre and live bands, to name a few.
The plan to turn Dreamland into a music and entertainment venue coincides with the closing of Nectar’s, the popular former nightclub at the airport that now houses Flatbread Pizza.
“We started with weddings, but then particularly when the events at the airport unfolded, it became evident that there was a keep-the-music-alive call going out,” Mr. Blau said.
Phil daRosa, owner of the Print Shop Studio and a member of local bands, has been hired as the Dreamland entertainment director.
“What I’m trying to do is bridge the gap between national bands and local acts that work really well together,” Mr. daRosa said.
He has booked DCLA (Dukes County Love Affair), 2nd Power, Island Thunder and possibly the Grateful Dread for Dreamland’s opening night on Friday, July 13. The next night DJ Di and company will takes the stage, and on Sunday things will get funky with locals Biggie Shorty and Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band from Asheville, N.C.
“The Island needs something like this,” Mr. daRosa said. “Musicians need a place like this . . . it’s like a launching pad for them.”
But it’s not all about music, he added.
“The other thing I’m really trying to focus on in entertainment is encompassing all forms of art into this space. Rather than it being just a club or an art gallery or a wedding venue, we are trying to make it something people haven’t experienced before.”
Plans for the space include a comedy festival on July 19 and 20, and a fashion show in September. Other bands booked for July and August include Entrain’s CD release show on July 20, Erich Luening and Friends on July 27, jazz pianist Jason Moran on August 6 and reggae singer iWayne on August 10.
“Dreamland itself just represents everything that you can dream of,” Mr. Blau said.
After three years of permitting and regulatory issues, including conflicts with neighbors and a detailed review by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, building owner Mark Wallace said he is happy to move forward.
“I don’t want to rehash all the aggravation that it took us to get here,” Mr. Wallace said. “We’re finally here. We’ve had the support of a lot of people and, once it actually opens, they will see the benefits.”
MVC approval came with conditions for installing sound mitigation measures in the building, and Mr. Blau said those have been done: New soffits were built and the walls now have multiple layers of sheetrock and sound board to insulate noise.
Paul Foley, a planner and DRI coordinator at the commission, said this week the Dreamland building passed its final sound test done by a professional acoustic engineer.
“They appeared to have done everything they were asked to do and maybe even more,” he said.
Mr. Blau said he is scheduled to give an update to the Oak Bluffs selectmen on Tuesday and will have an inspection from the fire department this week.
Over the past century, Dreamland has had its share of ups and downs, owners and operators, looks and uses.
In the early 1900s it was a hall for dancing and moving pictures, and during World War II it was used as a recreation center for the Navy. The building also has been an automobile garage, a skating rink and an arcade.
But when Ryan Family Amusements changed locations to Circuit avenue in 2005, the second floor of Dreamland was left to collect dust.
“Nobody wants to see a building sitting empty, and this has been doing that for seasons,” said Mr. Blau. “This has been an event space — a ballroom, a poolroom, a game room — for 112 years. So it’s not a change of use, it’s just a use.”