The Sunset Cafe was one of Chicago’s famous black-and-tan establishments. Located in Chicago, Illinois at E 35th St and Calumet Ave, the venue brought many Jazz legends including Louis Armstrong. The Cafe launched many careers. It has impacted Chicago’s history of jazz in its 30 years of operation. It is one of the last reaming jazz clubs of the 1920s in all of Chicago. The Sunset Cafe is highly recognized in the earliest forms of U.S jazz history.
building was originally constructed in 1909. The building was once a small
automobile garage. The garage was later remold and converted into the Sunset
Cafe with a small stage, a dance floor, and multiple tables and seats for customers.
It was opened by Edward Fox and Sam Rifas on August 3rd, 1921. A few
years later, the building was remolded once more on 1937. The Sunset Cafe was
then renamed the Grand Terrance Cafe.
The Sunset Cafe
attracted many Jazz legends. Not only did it brought legends to Chicago in the
1920s, it helped launch their careers. Jazz violinist Carroll Dickerson brought
many jazz celebrities such as Bix Beiderbecke, Benny Goodman, and Gene Krupa.
Jazz legend Louis Armstrong was also an important figure to the venue. He
attempted to join the cafe’s band under the leadership of Sammy Stewart.
However, he was rejected due to the color of his skin. It was until April 1926
that he secure a spot when Carroll Dickerson retain leadership. Eventually Louis
Armstrong became the band leader of the cafe until his return to New York in
The Sunset Cafe was a
black-and-tan establishment. While many jazz establishments were segregated,
venues such as the Sunset allowed entry to both white and black Americans were
they could interact, socialize, communicate, and engaged in other social
relations within the perimeter of the cafe. However, due to its high prices, the
Sunset Cafe exclude many South Siders. While both black and white musicians
performed on stage, many of the customers` were white.
The Sunset Cafe held
significant value to the infamous Al Capone. Joe Glaser’s mother was the
original owner of the building until her passing. She leased the building to
Edward Fox and Sam Rifas, who were direct employees of Al Capone. After both
Louis Armstrong and Joe Glaser left to New York, Edward Fox became the sole
manager of both the cafe and the band under the leadership of Earl Hines. Al
Capone himself owned 25 percent of the sunset Cafe. Since the Cafe was located within gangland
properties, it was that connection that allowed the Sunset Cafe to remain open
during the Great Depression, unlike many other jazz clubs.
During Prohibition, The
Sunset Cafe was no exception to constant raids. Jazz celebrities such Earl
Hines were placed in police wagons and constantly taken to police stations. On
November 5, 1927, the Sunset Cafe was shut down after a raid by federal agents.
While integrated dancing was common in black-and-tan establishments, the building
was selling bootleg whiskey. Fortunately, the Sunset Cafe was immediately
The Sunset Cafe closed
down in 1940. It became the distract office of Congressman William L, Dawson.
In 1970, the building became an Ace Hardware store. The building became an
official Chicago Landmark in September 9, 1998. The original murals were kept
within the building’s office, until it closed in late 2017. Most recently, the
building was converted into an Urban Boutique. The new establishment has kept
the original stage art. Due to its status as a Chicago landmark, the building
won’t be torn down anytime soon. The owners have also confirmed that the stage art is open for all to see.