The Vogel was completed in June but has yet to host a show. (Courtesy Count Basie Center for the Arts)

Club-size venue for 800 will open in October at reduced capacity

With nearly 40 drive-in and outdoor dinner theater concerts under its belt, the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, N.J., on Tuesday announced the opening of The Vogel, a club-size venue with a standing-room capacity of 800.

Only 150 will be allowed inside the nearly 20,000-square-foot venue when it hosts its first shows in the third week of October, per orders from the governor’s office, said Izzy Sackowitz, Basie Center executive vice president and general manager.

The Vogel, part of a $26 million expansion of the original building’s west end, is named for philanthropists Anne and Sheldon Vogel in recognition of their support of the Basie. Sheldon Vogel is a former Atlantic Records executive who oversaw the label’s finances and was hired by Atlantic founder Ahmet Ertegun.

With the Basie Center closed since March, the nonprofit launched a drive-in series at Monmouth Park racetrack in Oceanport. Shows in July by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and Jim Gaffigan led to outdoor dinner theater shows at the Blu Grotto on the racetrack grounds featuring Kevin Hart, Wynton Marsalis and Jorma Kaukonen.

The Vogel was completed in June but has not yet hosted events because of the pandemic. “It’s something we’ve been physically building for almost four years now.” Sackowitz said.

Lessons learned in safely staging shows at Monmouth Park and the Blu Grotto will carry over to the new venue, he said. The model used at the Blu Grotto kept guests in groups of six or less. In the case of The Vogel, tables of two or four people will be available.

About a dozen shows are tentatively booked into The Vogel, none ready to be formally announced, Sackowitz said.

The eight drive-in shows and what will end up being 43 dinner theater shows have put people back to work and have been well-received by guests and artists alike. They’ve also generated sorely needed revenue, but only a tiny fraction of what is needed to sustain the Basie, Sackowitz said. Still, taking proactive steps during an unprecedented health crisis should position the nonprofit to resume its traditional mode of operation when the pandemic is finally in the rearview mirror.

“We are finding some artists willing to take a shot,” he said. “We decided this is something we need to do for the community, for our staff, for our donors. We’re not ones to sit around and wait for someone to bail us out.”