Open since 1926 Bohemian Caverns is a jazz venue that is A key historic landmark in the “U Street Corridor”. It is considered one of the nations oldest, jazz clubs in the world. It is a restaurant and jazz nightclub located at 11th Street and U Street NW in Washington, D.C.
The club began its history as Club Caverns – a small establishment in the basement of a drugstore – famous for its floor and variety shows. It was also known for being a late night host of music playing and liquor drinking during prohibition. Like Howard Theatre, Club Caverns was a hot spot for the African American art and music scene and hosted many famous names. The club was frequented by many of Washington’s elite at the time who would come to see musical artists like Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway.
In the 1950s, the club’s name was changed to Crystal Caverns and then to Bohemian Caverns. In 1959, promoter Tony Taylor and Angelo Alvino bought the club and transformed it into the premier jazz venue in Washington, D.C. Taylor booked many of the leading jazz musicians of the 1960s including Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Shirley Horn, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Bobby Timmons, and Charles Mingus. In 1962, Ramsey Lewis recorded the critically and commercially successful album, The Ramsey Lewis Trio at the Bohemian Caverns.
By 1968, the club began to lose business. The financial strains and the civil disturbances following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led Taylor and Alvino to close the club in September 1968. Although the club has closed and re-opened various times throughout the years, it has always played a key role in the history of the Shaw neighborhood.
Thirty years later, as a re-development of the U Street area was underway, the club was purchased by Amir Afshar and re-opened. Since 2006, Bohemian Caverns has been under the direction of club manager Omrao Brown.