News Column

Music brings boost to local restaurants, bars

August 4, 2014

By Lindsey Adkison, The Brunswick News, Ga.

Aug. 04--Like other business owners in the Golden Isles, Jeff Montaigne is always looking for ways to improve his customers' experiences. One way the owner of Coastal Kitchen on St. Simons Island is doing that is by scheduling live musicians to perform on evenings and weekends.

"It's a draw and brings people out. If you're walking down the street and you see bar A without a guy playing guitar and then see bar B with a guy playing guitar most people will go to bar B. I certainly would," he said.

At his restaurant at Golden Isles Marina, Montaigne hosts a variety of music-themed events. For his larger gatherings, like the annual Brew Ha Ha, beer tasting festival, or a big name concert like John Popper or Ivan Neville, he opts for the courtyard to allow more space for food and drink vendors and attendees.

During the weekdays or weekends, he often positions bands on the deck overlooking the water or down by the marina's pool. He says the music gives the place more flavor and helps appease guests who have to wait for tables.

"It makes things more fun. I actually get a call four or five times a day asking if we have live music. It's great because there are so many talented musicians here," he said. "One thing I try to do is book different kinds of musicians. Sometimes it's a money maker and sometimes it's not, but I definitely want to support the musicians."

Montaigne, like many other area restaurant owners, knows that having music pays off and can bring dinners out, even on traditionally slower evenings like week nights. To maximize attendance, he has developed a schedule of events where customers can be guaranteed to see local entertainment.

"On Tuesday, we have Keith and Joey. And now on Wednesdays, we've just started the Kitchen Sessions. It's from 7 to 10 p.m. every Wednesday. We have three musicians every week and each musician will perform 10 songs, 10 original songs," he said.

"Then they will have a round robin where they have to do impromptu set. That way it allows them to get their own music out there too, which they don't get many opportunities to do. We will tape it and post a weekly podcast of the performance. It's an opportunity to let them promote their music too," he said. "The host every week will be Crawford Perkins, who is local, but we will also pull from all over -- Waycross, which has a great music scene, Fernandina, Athens."

Offering live music is a smart business decision, which helps fill the restaurant. But it's also something that's important to Montaigne on a personal level. He's also a musician.

"I get both sides of it. I see it as just having two extra employees for the night. It helps my business," he said.

"But when I was in an original band ... you had to play covers to pay your bills and once a month you may be able to play some original stuff so I want to give them a chance to do that. And by paying musicians I'm really helping everybody. Their money goes back to the economy and helps out that way. And if I break even, I'm happy."

Like Montaigne, Zack Gowen, owner of Loco's Grill and Pub on St. Simons Island, is also a musician and enjoys being able to hire local bands to perform.

"A long time ago I was also gigging around town and I always appreciated a steady gig. It is a great second job to have, but it's tough sometimes to get in the rotation. I totally understand the need to be fair and to work with their schedules," he said.

Of course, bringing in entertainment is a win for him as well. During the week, he offers different themes like open mic night, hosted by Marc Andress and Randy Reynolds, which begins again in September, as well as tribute nights.

"It helps to add some variety and to make us a destination. It breaks up the monotony," he said. "I see a 25 to 40 percent (uptick) in alcohol sales. It has more of an impact on alcohol sales than food sales."

-- Reporter Lindsey Adkison writes about business and other local topics. Contact her at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 346.


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Source: Brunswick News (GA)

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