Weekly jazz nights, inventive comfort food and a classy, modern ambiance—Venkman’s is quite the upgrade from the cramped basements Peter Olson used to play in with his 70s tribute band/comedy troupe Yacht Rock Revue. But the Atlanta restaurant and music venue, which recently celebrated its 1-year anniversary, is now his and the rest of the local music community’s home base.
Venkman’s opened in September 2015 in the city’s Old Fourth Ward. It was a vision Olson and business partner/bandmate Nick Niespodziani dreamt up while on the road.
“As we began to tour more regularly, we discovered music venues that were raising the bar for concert-going experiences by offering things like chef-driven menus, craft cocktail programs, and artist hospitality that you typically don’t see outside of large theaters and performing art centers,” Olson says. “Having set sail with everyone from KISS to Weezer to Kid Rock to Zac Brown Band, we learned everything we needed to know about creating artist community and, of course, being artists ourselves, we know how we like to be treated.”
Their vision didn’t become a reality overnight. It took two years of calculated planning and finding the right people to make it happen. Thankfully, Olson and Niespodziani knew a thing or two about the business and had a tight network. The two handled the booking initially, later bringing on talent buyer Rhiannon Klee, with Yacht Rock Revue’s front of house engineer Kip Conner designing their impeccable sound system. They also found a partner in Ticketfly that’s evolved with them. “When we were getting ready to open the doors of Venkman’s, Ticketfly offered a nice clean system that is easy to use. Since we signed up, Ticketfly has added a plethora of fantastic venues around the Southeast to their roster,” Olson says.
The missing morsel, however, was the food.
To help bring their concept to life, Olson and Niespodziani tapped executive chef Nick Melvin to take helm of the kitchen and become a partner in Venkman’s. “Nick’s passion and approach in the kitchen mirrors what we’re aiming to curate on the stage,” Olson says.
The result is a carefully curated, elevated experience that’s perfect for anyone. In fact, the Venkman’s website boasts that it’s a place “where you can bring a first date who you really want to impress or your truck-driving uncle from Mississippi.”
“At first glance, the interior vibe might be perceived on the fancier side of music venue decor. The overall ambiance of the space allows you to dress up to the intimacy you’re looking for on a first date or special occasion. But if you dig into the treatments you’ll find a little flavor from grandma’s basement,” Olson explains. “I think it’s that element of comfort in the design along with our welcoming staff that allows everyone to feel welcome under the same roof.”
The diverse menu helps, too. While your typical music venue might not stray too far from burgers and wings, Venkman’s restaurant takes it to another level. There’s Maple Roasted Squash, BBQ Mussels, Fennel Shrimp, Smoked Beef Cheek and a Pulled Mushroom Roll, among other mouthwatering offerings. And we haven’t even gotten to the brunch menu, which has foodies raving on Yelp (trust, it’s not just the bottomless mimosas talking).
While the restaurant has racked up fame and notoriety, the music is the real seasoning. Venkman’s offers live music during and after every meal, including dinner five nights a week and during brunch on the weekends. You might even see various members of Yacht Rock Review performing, be it unplugged sets on Sundays, reprised performances of their album shows or any number of their side projects. But the main purpose is to give a platform to locals.
“We’re striving to participate in movement to support local artistry and creation,” Olson says. “We’re offering support for the talented musicians to achieve excellence at their craft by providing gigs at jazz and bluegrass brunches and early evening shows. We’re working with groups like Jan Smith Studios and ATL Girls Rock Camp to provide a location for young musicians to develop their craft. We try to provide the best artist hospitality in Atlanta when it comes to food and service, not to mention a beautiful space to play with a top notch sound system.”
With one year down, Olson says he and his partners will continue to up their game in 2017.
“We hope to continue to grow and improve every aspect of the dining/concert experience,” he says. “Striving for excellence means you’re constantly working on customer service, menu, booking calendar, sound system, and connecting with the community. We’re just getting started.”
Ticketfly will be working right alongside them! For upcoming shows or more info on Venkman’s, visit venkmans.com.