(Kimberly and Tony Brothers at Brothers former location on Plume Street. Photo courtesy of Tony Brothers.) 

By Jeff Maisey

Tony Brothers has called a brief timeout for his namesake fine dining restaurant and entertainment space on Plume Street in downtown Norfolk, and will reopen May 4 on the first floor of MacArthur Center in the spot where Kincaid’s and most recently a Brazilian themed food establishment operated. RaJazz will perform opening night.

For Brothers, the pivot should be a slam dunk and for downtown a game-changer.  

Most people know Tony Brothers as the longtime referee (1994 to present) in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Television footage of Brothers’ unflinching command of the court in the face of impassioned pleas from the likes of Lebron James, James Hardin, and the late Kobe Bryant are easy found on Youtube. His job is to make the right call, not friends in the game. 

Tony Brothers, who was raised in Norfolk, graduated Booker T. Washington High School and Old Dominion University, said he always wanted to have a jazz club. 

“Brothers opened in January of 2020 during COVID,” said Tony. “At that time I had a partner and we were going to open a fine dining restaurant with an entertainment component.”

Brothers, with the tagline Chops | Seafood | Spirits, was born and received rave reviews from patrons. The restaurant operated on the first floor of a building previously used as a nightclub. The second floor — up a steep flight of steps — housed the long, somewhat narrow space for jazz music. Local groups such as RaJazz, Duane Smith Quartet, and bluesman Jason Cale played the stage, but the real draw and mission for Brothers were national smooth jazz recording artists. The likes of Rick Braun, Jonathan Butler (six performances in three nights), Paula Atherton, Nick Colionne, Jackiem Joyner, and Brian Simpson performed a series of shows. 

After each performance, jazz fans in attendance had an opportunity to meet the artists, pose for photos, and get autographs.

“These are things you can’t get at a jazz festival,” said Brothers. It is an unparalleled intimate experience. 

While the live music aspect was inspirational, Tony Brothers became aware of his small kitchen, lack of refrigeration and storage space not being able to keep pace with demand on busy evenings with a sold-out crowd in the house. 

It was clear he needed to up his game so patrons could have the complete experience Brothers desired to bring. That’s when he was offered the opportunity to take a chance at MacArthur Center. He signed a 5-year lease with an addition 5-year option. 

The restaurant space at the mall came with two complete kitchens, several walk-in freezers and refrigerators, ample dry storage, dishwashing stations, and a ready-to-serve bar. It’s a night and day difference in terms of operating capacity.  

The new location will be dazzling with palace-like pillars and an artistic explosion of colors with Chihuly-inspired overhead light-fixtures, splashed-paint floors and table tops, a wall-length mural of Norfolk’s greatest people and places, and seating for 250 patrons. 

A state-of-the-art sound and lighting system have been installed as well as a newly built stage for the recording artists to perform. 

Smooth jazz saxophonist Najee is scheduled to perform May 19. Comedians are also being considered. 

Brothers will approach concert/event nights like a dinner theater performance. One set price covers the concert and dinner. Drink will be a separate charge, and Tony Brothers promises a first class menu of rare, hard to find bourbon whiskies — his drink of choice. 

Brothers, while known for jazz music, will enhance its live schedule offerings too.

“What we want moving forward is expand into Latin music, blues, and all types of things,” he said. “I believe there are two things that bring people together: music and food. If we can find enough diverse entertainment and give consideration to people and their cultures, I believe Brothers will be that thing that can help bridge that gap here in Norfolk.”