By BRIAN SCHRADER
After over two years of being closed to the public, Lestat’s West has finally reopened. The iconic space, once the scene of open mic and comedy nights as well as the occasional big-name performance, has been converted into additional seating for the 25-year-old cafe next door. The quiet space has ample seating and is perfect for studying, reading and writing, and is just next door to the original Lestat’s location on Adams Avenue. Lined with the cafe’s signature custom tables and accented with the occasional baroque chair and couch, the spot is a welcome addition to the iconic Normal Heights cafe.
Lestat’s on Adams opened in April of 1997 and has been hosting music at the next-door music venue since 2003. In that time, the venue became an entry point for musicians, poets and comedians looking to cut their teeth and break into the local performing arts scene.
The conversion of Lestat’s West from live music venue and community arts watering hole to cafe extension comes as a result of the past few years of instability for live music venues and the need for more space at the cafe after the conversion of its eastern half into a new space home to Maya Moon Collective.
he loss of the iconic music venue was not the only change that Lestat’s has changed in recent years. After shutting its doors in March 2020, Lestat’s pivoted to selling food to-go and bags of house-roasted coffee beans from its Hillcrest location in a bid to stay afloat. Though Lestat’s had been roasting its own beans before the pandemic hit, the move helped keep loyal customers coming in until the lockdowns ended and its various cafes reopened. But another blow was dealt to the music venue when sound engineer and booking manager Louis Brazier passed away last August.
Even with the cafe on Adams now reopened, changes are still evident. The loss of the eastern half of the cafe is perhaps the most visible, though the western half did undergo a significant remodel. The back patio has been revamped and now provides ample outdoor seating under the shade of a grove of umbrellas.
Though for the students and night owls perhaps the most significant change has been the change of hours. Since 2004, Lestat’s had been a reliable place to study and work no matter the hour and no matter the day. After the reopening, Lestat’s has adjusted its hours numerous times but has yet to go back to 24/7 service.
All that said, work is underway to ensure Lestat’s remains a convenient study spot for students and a pillar of the local music scene. Nick Garland, general manager at Lestat’s, was optimistic about the future of the cafe and of the return of music to Lestat’s West.
Garland said he expects the chaos of the past few years to fade and for things at Lestat’s to return to some form of normality, including the return of live music. When reflecting on the history of the venue, Garland said, “[Open mic night] meant a lot to a lot of people.”
Now, the establishment is working to bring back a new kind of music to the space. Garland explained that the new design of the room allows for a pop-up stage and a stripped down set up with the ability to plug in an acoustic guitar and “three vocal mics… [but] not a full rock band.” It may still be a while before music is back though. “Sometime before the end of the year would be nice,” said Garland. “[We still need to] get the pieces in place.”
Garland also hinted that it may not be long before Lestat’s is once again open 24 hours a day. He explained that while it might still be some time before the all-night hours return, the change is expected to happen at some locations.
While the last few years have caused the business to make some changes, many don’t seem to be permanent. Residents and visitors should expect a return to a new normal.
“We’ve become kind of a rock [for the community],” Garland said. He explained that the cafe and the music had become part of the cafe’s legacy and a foundation of the neighborhood culture.
“This shop, this theatre, and our reputation as a 24-hour spot has been our MO.” And it seems that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.