NEW ORLEANS — The Little Gem Saloon, a restaurant and jazz club that brought life back to a long-vacant historic block of South Rampart Street, closed its doors Saturday after six years in business.
Owner and manager Nick Bazan confirmed the closure to Eyewitness News, saying that they sold the building to The GBX Group, a Cleveland-based real estate firm that specializes in historic preservation.
“We took over a building that was vacant for 45 years and played live music every night while doing a dinner show. It was so much fun,” Bazan said. “We took in wonderful local and world acts. I’m going to miss that.”
The Little Gem Saloon was one of the first music venues to open on a block that sat mostly vacant for decades after playing a major role in New Orleans' history.
The 400 block of South Rampart Street is home to three buildings that the Smithsonian has named the most important commercial structures from the early years of jazz. The Eagle Saloon, the Karnofsky Store and the Iroquois Theater are all major landmarks in jazz history, particularly for Buddy Bolden and Louis Armstrong.
The GBX Group also purchased the Iroquois and the Karnofsky shop, according to Bazan.
Bazan said he’s confident that the GBX Group will bring music back to the area and celebrate New Orleans’ history.
“I’m excited about what’s going to happen,” he said. “They’re going to develop it into something that could ... bring back where Louis Armstrong and Buddy Bolden performed.”
It’s a bittersweet day for Bazan, but he said it was the right time to sell.
“I’m going to miss the magic, the people that came in and the amazing staff,” he said. “But we are a family restaurant, so we took care of our staff and made sure they are OK by compensating them the last day that they worked. And making sure that they have other jobs with our friends next door, Walk-On's and Copper Vine.”