The downtown music scene will take another blow on Saturday, when Jillian’s of Albany will close for good.
The three-story nightclub and sports bar has been open at its Pearl Street location since 1998, first as part of the national chain Jillian’s, and since 2007 under the ownership of Ralph Spillenger.
Jillian’s was listed for sale by Spillenger for $1.6 million in June, but there were no buyers. Spillenger is also selling the Bayou Cafe, also on Pearl Street, to Jillian’s general manager Mike Phillips. Spillenger will continue to own and operate the Bayou Cafe’s Glenville location.
“We just haven’t gotten good support from the city,” Spillenger said. “We’re not making enough money. Basically, I am broke, or near broke; I put everything I had into that place.”
Over the years, Jillian’s has hosted concerts from such local mainstays as Wild Adriatic and Headband Jack, as well as up-and-coming national acts such as Chicago indie rockers Company of Thieves earlier this year. South Carolina-born alternative reggae artist Trevor Hall was scheduled to perform at the venue on Oct. 5. According to Spillenger, shows at Jillian’s already booked will be moving to the Albany Bayou Cafe.
“I was personally invited [by Mayor Gerald Jennings] to open the Bayou Cafe, and I tried to do what I could for Jillian’s,” Spillenger said. “Pearl Street was a great entertainment district, but people just don’t feel safe down there anymore.”
Spillenger, an Albany native and musician who used to play with the Glenville-based band The Students, will focus his energy on the Glenville Bayou Cafe. He hopes to eventually bring more music into that venue, which currently hosts bands Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
“Hopefully down the road we’ll put in more great live music,” Spillenger said. “We’ll keep working on it; obviously we can’t do the Fillmore East at the Bayou. But music is my first love; it’s what I live for.”