Michael “Eppy” Epstein built his career by seeing potential where others didn’t.
At his legendary club My Father’s Place, Epstein proved that the suburbs would embrace cool artists just as much as city dwellers did, bringing Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, U2, The Ramones and countless other groundbreaking artists of the ’70s and ’80s to Roslyn. He believed America would fall in love with reggae music as much as he did in Jamaica, helping Marley and numerous other reggae stars get started in this country.
And now, Epstein hopes to establish a new kind of club experience on Long Island when My Father’s Place at The Roslyn Hotel opens with an ambitious run of concerts starting with Buster Poindexter on Friday, June 29.
“Maybe I’m being romantic about this,” Epstein says. “But I believe the best thing I can do is help people fall in love with music again.”
He paved the way for so many musical love affairs from 1971 to 1987, a few blocks away on Bryant Avenue. The original My Father’s Place, which became the first venue inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2010, introduced generations to up-and-coming artists from all over the world, from Hicksville’s Billy Joel and Long Beach’s Billy Crystal to British rockers like The Police and Jamaica’s Bob Marley & The Wailers.
“We want to offer something for everyone,” he says. “If you don’t see it one night, you’ll see it another time. I was always a general practitioner in music and I still am.”
Though the 70-year-old Epstein has dreamed of opening another concert venue in Roslyn for years, My Father’s Place at The Roslyn Hotel came together quickly.
When 935 Lakshmi LLC, headed by Upper Brookville’s Sudhir Kakar, purchased The Roslyn Hotel in April 2017, the new owners wanted to generate excitement at the 77-room hotel. In November, they settled on bringing in Epstein and his partners, chief operating officer/general manager Dan Kellachan, best known for his decades of heading up marketing at Westbury Music Fair and NYCB Theatre at Westbury, and chief financial officer Alex Ewen, best known for co-founding Renegade Nation with Steven Van Zandt, the company that developed the Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show and satellite channel, as well as concerts and other events.
Weeks after the deal was announced, though, it became clear to Epstein how much work had to be done. Walking through the basement space, which housed the hotel’s ballroom, he pointed out all the changes he wanted to make to the 2,700-square-foot space, about half the size of the original club.
“The carpet has to go,” Epstein says. “We’re going to tear down the mirrored doors.”
Standing in a mirrored entranceway, he says, “The stage will go here.”
In a storage room stacked with extra tables and chairs, Epstein envisions a smaller bar, where concertgoers can wait for the doors to open in the main room before the show or grab a drink afterwards. The hotel gym and its treadmills gets slated to become the band’s dressing room.
“Can you see it?” Epstein says. “We want to build a place for people to come for a good time.”
Epstein recognizes, though, that for fans of the original My Father’s Place, the definition of “a good time” has likely changed in the past three decades.
“People want a good meal and a good chair to go with seeing a good show,” says Epstein, adding that he is eager to bring the concept of a Manhattan supper club to Roslyn, but with the Long Island luxury of more space.
Kellachan says that comfort will be an important part of the new My Father’s Place experience. “If an act has a bigger stage setup, I’m going to be killing seats rather than squeezing people together,” he says, adding that the room’s capacity could be larger, but to keep the atmosphere relaxed, they planned to cap it at 200. “We’re aiming to make it comfortable.”
Kellachan says that the whole experience will be different from the one at the old My Father’s Place. “We’re not a roadhouse,” he says. “It will be more of the experience at a nice restaurant. Nobody will be jumping up and down in front of you and spilling cheap beer on your girlfriend. Everyone will have a great view of the stage.”
One thing Long Islanders will have to get used to is the $25 minimum per person at the show, though it will be a familiar concept to visitors to many Manhattan clubs, not just the supper clubs.
Kellachan says the new My Father’s Place is trying to inform concertgoers about the best way to experience the venue through its website, myfathersplace.com. In order to enjoy a leisurely dinner, Kellachan suggests arriving two hours before the show’s start time. Tables will be cleared before the music starts and food won’t be served while the bands play, though you can still order drinks at your seat or at the bar.
“It’s a basic premise: Now that we’re older, we’re looking for a nicer experience,” Kellachan says.
What hasn’t changed, though, is My Father’s Place’s commitment to music.
“Left to my own devices, I’d book nothing but original local talent and work to develop some new superstars,” Epstein says. “But what we’re going to do is mix it up. We’ll take traditional artists and give them a chance to do something special. We’ll have local artists in to give them a chance. I’m really proud of this opening run. We have some really great bands.”
Epstein says fans of NRBQ from around the country are already booking rooms at the hotel in order to see the eclectic band on July 27. However, he acknowledges that booking bands will be harder this time without a radio partner like WLIR to promote the shows the way they did at the original My Father’s Place.
“It’s a different world,” says Denis McNamara, who was WLIR’s program director when it would regularly broadcast shows from My Father’s Place. “But these are good people putting it together … And Eppy is a star. He is always looking to find new artists and trying to build a community of music-loving people.”
McNamara says the days at the original My Father’s Place will be hard to duplicate. “There were so many remarkable memories,” he says. “We helped The Police bring in their own amplifiers. We saw Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood there.”
However, McNamara says he hopes the new My Father’s Place succeeds. “I hope they can bring back that dynamic of ‘anyone can be there and anything can happen’,” he says. “It can only be good for Long Island, for our culture and for our sanity.”
Epstein says he feels like he has to try to help.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says. “I don’t know where the club is going to lead me … But I’m going to do what I can because I’m really unhappy with the way the music industry is going.”
The radio in Epstein’s modest office in The Roslyn Hotel’s basement is regularly tuned to BBC Radio 6 so that Epstein can hear the new music DJ Steve Lamacq is playing. He worries that many of the bands he likes will break up because they won’t be able to survive without major-label support.
“There is a lot of work to be done,” Epstein says.
He balks at the idea of a wishlist of acts for the new My Father’s Place. “I want everyone to play here,” he says, though he adds, “I would love to see The Police get back together. And I know I’m going to get that phone call one day from Keith Richards wanting to play here with his favorite blues players just for fun.”
Epstein says he believes that great concerts can save the music industry.
“I think it can all be fixed,” he says. “It’s all about finding the next great song and being able to sit and enjoy it.”
WHAT The Grand Reopening with Buster Poindexter
WHEN|WHERE 8 p.m. Friday, June 29, My Father’s Place at The Roslyn Hotel, 1221 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn
INFO $75; 516-625-6700, myfathersplace.com
A SENSE OF ‘PLACE’
Michael “Eppy” Epstein wanted the opening shows at My Father’s Place at The Roslyn Hotel to show the range of original music the venue hopes to bring to Long Island.
LOCAL HEROES Zebra (July 20) will do an “almost acoustic” show; Barnaby Bye (Aug. 4-5) already sold out the first night; Jimmy Webb (Oct. 7) will showcase some of the classic songs he has written, including “MacArthur Park” and a string of Glen Campbell hits
’80S ROCK The Blasters (Aug. 11) will bring their “American Music” back; Glenn Tilbrook (Aug. 17) will offer Squeeze classics and his solo material; Marshall Crenshaw (Sept. 15) will satisfy “Someday, Someway”
BLUES & JAZZ Roomful of Blues (July 1) bring five decades of blues styles; John Hammond (July 13) will show his “Timeless” blues; Spyro Gyra (July 21) show off their jazz fusion “Morning Dance”; McCoy Tyner (Aug. 3) may hopefully feel some inspiration from Dix Hills’ John Coltrane
REGGAE Third World (July 12) will bring some of Epstein’s beloved Jamaican reggae. — GLENN GAMBOA