ITHACA, N.Y.—The former Lot 10 building on South Cayuga Street sat empty for months during the COVID-19 pandemic, its iconic neon logo dark and its long windows covered in cardboard paper. Even after The Upstairs bar and venue opened in the upper floor of the building, the ground floor has still sat deserted — until this week.

Seven Of Jazz Lounge opened its doors officially on Thursday, Jan. 5, with the goal of offering a “relaxing environment” for those who want to listen to live music or even just hang out with friends. The owners are aiming for a jazz lounge type of feel, believing that it’s an unfilled space in Ithaca’s hospitality scene. The restaurant also boasts a new mural painted by Ithaca-based artist Yen Ospina.

Amy Fudala, Seven Of’s house manager along with Danny Thurmond, said the space will be aimed at a wide audience: those who want to stop for some casual, small eats table-service food and those who want to listen to some jazz-esque live music. It got its name in a non-traditional but extremely Ithaca way: a tarot card reading during the conceptual stages of the restaurant.

“The first card that they pulled regarding their work life was the Seven of Pentacles,” Fudala said, a card that refers to the commitment to life’s work and long-term goals. “So it was a given, he was like ‘This is going to be Seven Of now.'”

Fudala said there will be brunch during the day with a tapas-style menu at night. West African and French cuisine will play heavily into the menu, with Fudala mentioning jerk chicken and shakshuka as two dishes that are favorites of the chef. There are also more substantial lunch and dinner options as well.

One of the issues the Fudala said the ownership team has dealt with is trying to overcome the community’s familiarity with the Lot 10 locaiton as a more dance-centric partying spot. Seven Of is aiming for a slightly calmer environment, including having earlier closing times (they are open daily except Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.) that hopefully won’t intersect with performances at their upstairs neighbor The Upstairs.

“We want it to be a different atmosphere, we don’t want it to be Lot 10 anymore,” Fudala said. “Lot 10 is no longer, we want it to be a classy jazz vibe. We think people will be open to being in a different atmosphere in the same space and welcoming a new kind of bar and restaurant in the city. […] We want it to be an inclusive space for everyone.”

Credit: Casey Martin

Part of that inclusivity goal is to make space for people who want to enjoy the music and food but don’t want to drink alcohol, a burgeoning trend in bars that want to avoid excluding non-drinkers. With that goal in mind, Seven Of has included a list of mocktails to go along with their regular offerings (actual cocktails are not yet available but should be soon).

“We’ll also have off-menu drinks, like seasonal drinks, where our team or myself create these drinks that are cohesive with the food menu, or just something that we think is really cool and flavorful that we want people to try,” Fudala said.

There’s obviously some risk to opening any business, particularly with the turnover going on in downtown Ithaca, but Fudala said she and the owners are optimistic about the niche they’ve found.

“What I’ve been observing recently, at least with the businesses on the Commons as far as restaurants, a lot of them are pretty busy, and I know this time of year is even tough,” Fudala said. “But people are trying to get back out there, and I’m hopeful about that. I just have to rock with the good feeling that I have and hope for the best.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com