William “BJ” Craven is best known as the songwriting lead vocalist/guitarist of South Strand original funk/rock act Ten Toes Up. But Craven says he needed an insurance policy and saw “the writing on the wall.” For whatever reasons he felt the band, into which he’d poured his heart and soul for a decade, might not pay the bills into the next decade. So Craven, and longtime bartender/talent booker, Jay McAllister, took advantage of an opportunity to buy out local bar/restaurant owner Giuseppe Chillico. As of October 1 Craven and McAllister, two longtime friends and partners in a burgeoning entertainment business, are the new owners of the popular Myrtle Beach music venue and restaurant, Bourbon Street Bar & Grill.
Craven and McAllister will host a Grand Re-opening Party on Thursday in an event slated to begin at 4 p.m., with free food and drinks between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. and a musical free-for-all from 10 p.m. into the wee hours. Ten Toes Up will perform in one of its last few gigs before the band goes on a semi-permanent “hiatus,” according to Craven. Additional farewell gigs are scheduled for later in the year at other area venues known for hosting the band, though the number of remaining gigs might be counted on one hand. Craven and his band mates have seemingly already moved on. All are involved in musical side projects, and new ventures.
“We’re calling the music part of the Grand Re-opening “Ten Toes Up and Friends,” says Craven. “We’ll have who knows how many guest musicians sitting in and performing. Many of the Bourbon Street regulars over the years, and the band’s friends, too.”
In addition to being a popular neighborhood watering hole, Bourbon Street opened with a busy live music schedule almost since Day One, in part because of former owner Chillico’s love of live music. He didn’t seem particular about booking original acts or cover acts, rock, country, blues, reggae or bluegrass - as long as they were affordable for the small bar, and that the acts were made up of good musicians, and were entertaining. The new owners say they’ll continue on in that tradition.
McAllister had been a bartender at Bourbon Street almost since its opening more than three years ago. He also booked regional and national acts at the bar taking advantage of their coming from or going to gigs in Charleston or Wilmington, N.C. This resulted in intimate performances from well-respected national indie artists playing no cover charge mid-week gigs.
Patrons walking through the front door will notice little has changed since Craven and McAllister took the reins. The pool table and free ping-pong still occupy floor space on the north end of the bar, and the permanent stage, P.A., and lighting still give testament to the commitment to live music.
“When Jay told me Giuseppe had expressed interest in getting out earlier in the year,” said Craven, “we talked about it, and both felt it was something we could make work. We got the ball rolling and closed on the deal.”
Why Bourbon Street?
“Music is one of the defining features of the place,” continued Craven. “It’s what drew me there, it’s why Ten Toes Up played there, and why national acts coming through played there. The room has a good music vibe. We’re still trying new things and plan to have as much music as possible. We have a new menu, but we don’t want to mess with the general vibe of the place.”
As a Bourbon Street employee for more than three years McAllister had a leg up on operations. “It’s been an easy transition,” he said. “Especially having BJ with me – he’s been the brains, handling the non-late night operations – the numbers and inventory, and that kind of thing. Giuseppe has been great through the transition, easy to work with, everything has been very smooth – G is still part of the family. “
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