$50k damage in blaze at historic Georgetown jazz club

D.C. fire officials say the fire at the legendary D.C. jazz club Blues Alley Tuesday night caused $50,000 in damage, and that the cause hasn’t yet been determined.

The fire broke out on the second story of the club in Georgetown at around 6:25 p.m., Jennifer Donelan of D.C. Fire and EMS said. Firefighters found the fire between the ceiling and the roof.

D.C. Fire and EMS said about 50 firefighters were on the scene, and one firefighter fell through part of the roof while fighting the fire. WTOP’s Mike Murillo, who was at the scene, reported that the person is expected to be OK.

The club was supposed to host a record release show by saxophone player Owen Broder’s band. While he and members of his quintet were out for a walk, Broder said he could see smoke coming from the top of the building as people were evacuating. Luckily, trumpet player Nadje Noordhuis grabbed his saxophone and some of the band’s other instruments before heading to safety.

“Our first thought was just ‘Are our instruments okay,'” Broder said. “Those are the most valuable things; those are our livelihood. On a smaller scale, this is our first stop on a tour, so our instruments were at the top of mind.”

Noordhuis was having a meal on the second floor when the club’s fire alarm began to go off. She said that she had not seen smoke during the quintet’s soundcheck and did not think it was a big deal.

“Then when I opened the door, I could see the waves of smoke, and I thought ‘Oh, this isn’t good.'” she said, describing the scene before rescuing the instruments of some of her bandmates.

Blues Alley was founded in 1965 and is the nation’s “oldest continuing jazz supper club,” according to its website.

“I’ve heard of Blues Alley for so many years, and I’d been looking forward to playing here for so long,” Noordhuis said. “I hope that whatever the damage is, it’s minimal, and they’re able to get it fixed up quick, so we can get back to playing music.”

Late Tuesday evening, the club announced on a social media post — featuring a photo of owner and executive director Harry Schnipper — that Blues Alley “will not be defeated.”

“Blues Alley survived the pandemic and Blues Alley will survive this set back.”

Below is the area where the fire happened:

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report. 

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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