Photo by Rich Begany Photography
Does having live music add to the bottom line of restaurants? Among the dozens of restaurants in our county that offer live music, three—12 Grapes Music and Wine Bar in Peekskill, The Bayou Restaurant in Mount Vernon, and the Watercolor Café in Larchmont—admit that making money with live-music can be tricky. But, done well, it does bring in more customers and consequently more money.
“It’s the music that sets us apart,” says Rich Credidio, who opened 12 Grapes with his wife, Jeannie, three years ago. “Without music, 12 Grapes might be just another restaurant.” Credidio says that 12 Grapes emphasizes its bands just as much as its menu, partially because they return the favor. “The bands help spread the word about our restaurant. That is great advertising.”
The Bayou Restaurant in Mount Vernon, though, has had a more mixed experience. “Sometimes you make money with the music, sometimes you don’t,” says Sue Ryan, the manager of The Bayou, which has been presenting live music all of its 21 years. “Sometimes you just about break even.”
Ryan points out that many restaurants—including The Bayou, with its Creole-kitsch vibe—have to worry about more than just paying a couple of local kids in crawfish. “You have to consider all the licensing fees,” says Ryan. “We pay BMI, SESAC, and ASCAP. There could also be fees you would have to pay to your city, town, or village, such as a cabaret license.” Sound systems, she points out, don’t come cheap either.
In Larchmont, Bruce Carroll, a former musician himself and owner of the intimate 13-year-old Watercolor Café, says live music can make money if you manage it correctly. The Café gets high-profile acts (which, in turn, bring in customers).
“Westchester is an affluent audience,” says the Yonkers native “and they can afford to pay a thirty- or forty-dollar cover on a weeknight.” His cover charge is set “so that we break even on the music with about forty people” eating dinner, with losses caused by smaller audiences offset by bigger shows.
How well does it work? Carroll says that his restaurant has recouped “investments in the sound system, lights, marketing, and advertising.” And that’s music to any business owner’s ears.