DLV Lounge closes after 50 years
“The joint is jumping, the folks a rockin’ to a nice easy bluesy kind of beat, so if you can and want a party, party hardy at the top of the DLV” was the theme song that Jacqueline Johnson, vocalist for the Richard Pierson Life Story Band, would sing when she performed at the DLV Lounge.
Now, after more than 50 years of providing jazz, drinks and vibes in the cozy space, owner George Marable has decided to close the music venue located on Bloomfield Avenue.
A post on DLV’s Facebook page said: “As of this afternoon, Thurs., Dec. 1st, the DLV Lounge is closed. We truly Thank You for your past patronage... 50½ years! We wish you all the best! The DLV Lounge.”
Since 1972, the lounge was a communal space for locals and tourists to enjoy music. The lounge is named after Marable’s family — the D is for Dutch, Marable’s father, the L is for Louise, his mother, and the V is for Valerie, his daughter.
Though some are mourning the closing of the lounge, Marable is in good spirits and thankful that he was able to provide memories for so many people throughout the years.
“The main thing I find is anytime you leave something, and you’re doing it for a long period of time, is that I’m fortunate and lucky to be able to leave on my own terms,” he said.
Though people are congratulating Marable for his success with the lounge, he said he was never one to get caught up in labels. “I was too busy working,” he said. Not only was Marable the sole owner of DLV Lounge, at one point he was the only African American with a liquor store in Bloomfield.
Though he had two successful businesses, he never considered himself a businessman. “Back when I was young, we thought a business person either just showed up and the money was there and you've made money,” he said. “I didn't realize, ‘Hey, with all those titles come work.’”
Richard Pierson, a longtime friend of Marable and resident performer at the DLV Lounge, reminisced about his time there. Pierson, composer and drummer for the Richard Pierson Life Story Band, knew of the Marable family growing up and remembers stepping into the lounge for the first time at the age of 15 in 1974.
Prior to its closing, Pierson played with his band three nights a week and brought in artists from all over to perform in the two-story building.
“The DLV had kind of a Harlem feel, like if you go uptown in Harlem to go to jazz clubs,” he said. “They have the tour buses there, everybody from Japan and places like that, and that's kind of the vibe that was, and I enjoyed it.”
Despite being nestled between a parking lot now used as a COVID testing site and a vacant building, the DLV Lounge brought together music lovers from all over the world.
Johnson recalls a time that a group of tourists from Russia visited the lounge.
“They would say, ‘Sing Billie Holiday,’ and they would take a $20 bill and put it into the tip cup,” she said. “I would sing it. Then they would say, ‘Sing Sarah Vaughn!’ I would sing it. It was so good. And then they said, ‘Sing “Put a Spell on You.’” They knew our music, and it was a good tip night for us that night.”
Pierson said that when he was in high school and college in the late 1970s, the bar was known as the “Black bar.” It was a staple for the Black community in Montclair, and though the performers spanned multiple musical genres, DLV was always guaranteed to provide jazz.
Nichelle McLeod, a third-generation Montclairian, remembers her father going to the lounge frequently. “That was one of two locations in Montclair where he could listen to jazz,” McLeod said. “He really enjoyed it.”
Not only has the DLV bridged communities through music, it has also bridged generational gaps. Jeanne Spinelli, a longtime patron of the lounge, first visited when she was 22 and in college. Spinelli had been looking forward to visiting the lounge this week to celebrate her daughter’s 21st birthday.
“DLV was living history while it existed,” she said. “It is an immeasurable loss to artists and lovers of it, particularly now with the extreme gentrification of Montclair it stings even hotter. The vibes were immaculate.”
With the DLV having closed its doors, Johnson wants it to be remembered as a “swinging place” that brought together people who had a common love of music.
“That's our music, that's American music,” she said. “And people thirst for that. They want the real thing. They want to come and get with the people, the people that live there, the culture, the real culture. And when you came there, that's what you got.”