The Royal Grove is returning, and Vega, the music venue across from Pinnacle Bank Arena, is closing.
Vega owners Eli and Carrie Mardock made that announcement Wednesday morning on Facebook. In an interview, Eli Mardock said they, along with his brother Luther, will take over the Royal Grove building in January and will operate the club at 340 W. Cornhusker Highway under its original name.
The Mardocks had looked at the Royal Grove when they were exploring another opportunity in the spring. That venture fell through. But the Mardocks again looked at the large building on Cornhusker Highway as they sought a place to move their business.
“It makes sense to do the Grove,” Mardock said. “It’s very affordable. It’s got parking. The location may not be ideal. But it did well out there from 1967 on.”
And it made sense to use the name the Royal Grove, he said.
“We thought of tons of different names,” Mardock said. “But, in the long run, we concluded that no matter what we called it, everyone was going to call it the Grove, so we might as well go with it.”
The Mardocks cleared the use of the name with the Jelsma family, which has owned the club since its beginnings. Tommy Jelsma, who ran the club for 58 years before retiring in 2005, died Dec. 17 as the deal between the Mardocks and the Jelsmas was being put together.
Continuing to use the name and to run it as a music venue will honor Tommy Jelsma’s legacy, Mardock said. And he added, it’s simply what should be done with a venue that presented bands and artists — from The Blasters and Leon Russell to Johnny Winter and nearly every aspiring hard-rock band of the ‘80s.
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“Weird Al Yankovic, Ween, Jerry Seinfeld, Motorhead, there’s a crazy list of (people) who played there,” Mardock said. “There’s such a cool legacy there. We want to continue that for a whole new generation.”
The original Royal Grove opened at 315 Second St. in 1933. The Cornhusker Highway location was built and opened in 1967 and operated as the Royal Grove until 2005, when it became Uncle Ron’s, a country bar. The Royal Grove returned in 2009, but has been closed for the past two years.
Because the Mardocks want to preserve the traditions of the Royal Grove, they will do only minimal remodeling to the building, primarily decorating. A new sound-and-lighting system will be designed and installed.
“The great thing about it is, it is basically plug-and-play,” Mardock said. “It has a retro feel and we want to keep that. It’s got a cool, classic vibe. People will definitely recognize it as the Royal Grove.”
The first show at the revived Royal Grove has not yet been determined. It is likely to be in late January.
The final show at Vega will be New Year’s Eve with AZP, Funk Trek and BOTH.
The club on the second floor of The Railyard in the Haymarket opened Oct. 30, 2013. Initially operating as a restaurant by day, club by night, the venue eventually dropped food service. It held shows by Lincoln bands and solo artists, as well as acclaimed national and international touring groups and artists such as Mark Kozelek, Young Fathers, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Built to Spill.
Since it opened, several Railyard tenants have closed or relocated, including Jack & June, Joysticks, The Normandy, Sanders Specialty Meats, KD Designs and the Doughnut Hole.
"The past four years at Vega have been amazing, and we want to thank all our friends, family, customers & employees for making it such a wonderful time in our lives,” the Mardocks wrote in their Facebook post.