A new jazz jackpot for South Florida
Until he won a $52 million lottery jackpot about eight years ago, Miguel Pilgram’s biggest windfall might have been the one he received on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean during Operation Desert Storm.
The war got real once the ship took on enemy fire, says Pilgram, then a Navy communications specialist.
“It gave it a very different perspective, sitting in the middle of the ocean and waiting to get blown up when you are on a ship that specializes in transporting … let’s call it ammunition. Back then that was classified information,” Pilgram says, with a laugh. It was then that a friend, a Marine, offered a distraction.
“He said, ‘Man, you’re always listening to music. Here’s some stuff that you need to listen to.’ And it was Coltrane, it was Duke Ellington and Nina Simone. And I fell in love with it. I said, ‘Wow. This is true joy.’ I’ve loved it ever since,” Pilgram says. On Saturday the 48-year-old Coral Springs father of a Navy sailor and a Rollins College student will open the NYSW Jazz Lounge in an evolving downtown Fort Lauderdale neighborhood a few doors west of the Publix on Andrews Avenue.
The space is next door to the offices of his Pilgram Group real-estate firm and part of a building that includes his New York Subs and Wings restaurant (also a food truck). It’s been about 30 months since Pilgram moved his office to the street, which recently added the buzzed-about Tarpon River Brewing and the no-less-hip Grind Coffee Project.
The NYSW Jazz Lounge and Pilgram’s office are hard to miss, covered in colorful murals of Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Tito Puente, Duke Ellington, Sara Vaughan and Miles Davis. They were done by local muralist DJ the Artiste.
The 1,500-square-foot, indoor-outdoor space will host live music every night except Monday, with evenings devoted to classic jazz (Coltrane and Sinatra, Pilgram says), Latin jazz, spoken word and undiscovered artists. There will be a menu of premium cocktails and light tapas fare. There will be no cover on opening night.
The lounge is less than a mile from the former Andrews Avenue location of Brownie’s, famous for hosting performances by Fitzgerald, Armstrong, Ellington, Count Basie and other jazz luminaries during segregation. Brownie’s was torn down to make way for the popular Tap 42 lounge.
Pilgram says the loss of a building with that kind of history is part of what is driving his projects, especially his attempts to revitalize Fort Lauderdale’s Sistrunk Boulevard.
First up is a sister lounge called NYSW Memphis Blues Spot on the second floor of the space that housed Sistrunk’s once-bustling Night Owl Lounge on the southeast corner of Northwest 15th Avenue. The bottom floor will be a New York Subs and Wings restaurant.
Next door Pilgram is building a 6,000-square-foot building that will have NYSW Memphis Blues on the third floor. The two lounges will be connected by a bridge.
Pilgram is fourth-generation Navy, and moved frequently, but settled in Memphis during high school. When he returned from his Navy service, he was dismayed at how the city’s “wonderful history and culture was just… dissolved.” He said hundreds of residents where he grew up were displaced by gentrification.
Pilgram wants to prevent that from happening in Sistrunk, and has a business model he believes will work.
A winning $52 million lottery ticket doesn’t answer every question, Pilgram says, laughing, “But it gives you a good start.”
The NYSWJazzLounge, at107 SWSixth St, Fort Lauderdale, opens 7 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. Visit Facebook.com/ NYSWJazzLounge. Performing Arts Center (1074 NW Third Ave., Miami) 2-4 p.m. Tickets start at $25. Visit SouthFloridaDreamBookTour.com.
Jenifer Lewis of the hit ABC sitcom “Blackish” will talk about her dark, bawdy, but ultimately triumphant memoir in Lauderhill and Miami this weekend.