Miami meets Greensboro at Jabs Ultra Bar

by Jordan Green

The glowing yellow plastic palm trees have been beckoning late-night commuters and weekend cruisers for weeks now. They stand like garish sentinels as West Lee Street curves around from the Gate gas station at the intersection of Chapman Street, past the Coliseum and out towards the interstate.

Appropriated with suitable irony, the palms don’t even suggest the illusion of the beach or the subtropical climes that begin south of Charlotte and Fayetteville, as do the happy green arboreal lights of Hooter’s do farther down the street. They’ve dumped 16 yards of sand around the yellow palms in front of Jabs Ultra Bar, but the effect is disorienting against the weathered brick and rust-stained glass of the old warehouse that is home to the new club.

Inside the doors on Wednesday afternoon as a workman cuts length of PVC pipe to make a rail around the wooden stage, the premises are fully lit, but the purposeful decorating already gives a sense of what’s to come: a fabulous extra-sensory experience to be had under the influence of a pulsating sound system, the press of human interaction, and whatever libations patrons might choose to enhance the excursion.

The first thing manager Kobie Graves wants to show off is the bathroom. The polished porcelain and chrome fixtures give the facilities a luxuriant feel, but the wall-length mirror truly creates an expansive experience. Graves swears there are television monitors set in behind the glass.

‘“You can come in here and not miss anything,’” he says.

Upon departing the bathroom, a left turn brings one to the VIP area, which is set off from the rest of the club by a gauzy veil and adorned with a 15-inch liquid crystal display screen. A 43-foot marble bar runs the length of the club, illuminated in sections with clusters of light. Over the dance floor bolts of cloth cascade from the ceiling like cyclones. There are booths across from the bar and a long bench for revelers to catch their breath or observe the action before venturing onto the dance floor. Down the center of the room chest-high tables encircle support posts and offer slots to baby-sit momentarily neglected drinks.

The fire marshal is here, signing off on a permit. Aside from a pending inspection of the heating and air conditioning system, the only obvious thing holding up the opening of the club seems to be the pile of black suede swivel chairs lying in the middle of the floor, which have not yet been unpacked from their plastic and brown paper coverings.

The three owners, brothers Brannon, Brad and Anthony Jones, have all taken a hand in the club’s interior design.

‘“Anthony, he said, ‘I want some color. I don’t want you to go in and go to sleep. I want it to be popping,”” explains Brannon Jones. ‘“We decided to name it the Ultra Bar because we were thinking, ‘It’s not your typical bar. It’s the Grandover meets your typical sports bar colliding as one.””

The name Jabs was Brad Jones’ idea. And here is the irony. Counter-intuition, if you will.

‘“It stands for ‘just another bar,”” Brannon Jones says. ‘“Once you walk in, you’ll say, ‘Whoa, not just another bar.’ We want to bring the whole Vegas and Miami thing to North Carolina.’

Party planner John Ruth is designing an ‘“ultra drink’” for the bar. They might have specials on Michelob Ultra.

‘“The whole thing is branding the word ‘ultra,”” Brannon Jones says.

The three brothers got into the entertainment business under the tutelage of their father, who ran Club Unity ‘— an R&B and jazz joint ‘— in Alamance County for a while. They started promoting events around the Triad, bringing in groups as varied as R&B outfit Silk, Memphis hip-hop unit Three 6 Mafia and singer Montel Jordan.

The entertainment rotation at Jabs Ultra Bar will be pretty simple: Top 40 on Fridays, R&B on Saturdays and ‘“college night’” on Tuesdays. The ubiquitous ‘“college night’” marketing term doesn’t connote any particular drink specials, Jones says. It means the club will lower the age threshold from 21 to 18, and play a mix of the two aforementioned musical genres.

As it happens, this particular Friday (June 23) will not be the date Jabs Ultra Bar makes its debut on the Greensboro scene.

Later, Brannon Jones will explain that the brothers decided not to compete with the massive SuperJam concert, hosted by the Triad’s powerhouse hip-hop station 102 JAMZ, at the Coliseum down the street.

Torrential showers inundate Greensboro on Friday, turning traffic on High Point Road into a plodding stream pushing through the blinding rain. The traffic lights malfunction in front of the Coliseum, requiring the Greensboro Police Department to direct traffic by hand and causing cars to back up for blocks. Three 6 Mafia and more than a half dozen other acts pack the Coliseum to the rafters.

Despite the one-week delay, Jabs Ultra Bar will really open, Brannon Jones promises.

‘“We’re going to push it real hard on the radio,’” he says. ‘“It most definitely will open on Friday.’”

That would be Friday, June 30.

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