The James Street Tavern (later the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy) was at one point, the best place to hear live jazz in Pittsburgh, a city that has birthed and nurtured more great jazz musicians than almost any other.

The North Side nightspot closed in 2017, following a series of disputes with neighbors about noise levels.

Current owners Jonathan Iams and 422 Foreland LLC purchased the property in 2018, and are investing $5 million to renovate the building. The goal is to bring it back as a venue for jazz, with a restaurant, office space and upper-level apartments.

That effort got a boost on Monday when the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh closed on a $500,000 loan to 422 Foreland LLC. The loan from the URA’s Pittsburgh Business Fund is to help address funding gaps stemming from the pandemic.

“The James Street Tavern has been the home of jazz in Pittsburgh for more than half a century,” says Iams. “I am excited to see the building thrive again as a place for the community to enjoy great food, music and art in an architecturally significant building.”

Pittsburgh jazz greats like Stanley Turrentine, George Benson and Roger Humphries once graced the stage at James Street. Now, a new generation of musicians will get their chance.

The 123-year-old, 18,700-square-foot building was also known for its food. At one point, it had a distinctly New Orleans accent. (I recall eating turtle soup there).

No timetable has been set for the reopening yet.

“When James Street closed its doors, the community was clear that they wanted music to come back, and we promised we’d make that happen,” says Mayor Bill Peduto. “I’d like to thank Jonathan Iams and his team and the URA for helping to fulfill that promise and bring jazz back to James and Foreland (streets).”

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.