BUCKTOWN — The owners of the troubled Dolphin nightclub have re-opened the club under a new name.
About two weeks ago, the Dolphin quietly transitioned into Rio Chicago. This is the third new name and concept at the location under the same ownership.
The name change comes less than three months after two men were shot dead outside the front of the Dolphin, 2200 N. Ashland Ave.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) who has repeatedly called for the club to be shut down, has not changed his position, according to chief of staff Paul Sajovec.
Sam Menetti, the owner of the club, voluntarily shut down the business for 60 days after the violent night which left two men dead and a third injured.
Deonta Jackson, 35, and Elijah Moore, 41, were both killed when a fight inside the club spilled into the street around 3 a.m. March 16.
The club’s owners had been planning to re-open under the new name Rio Chicago as far back as March 31, according to posts on Rio Chicago’s Facebook page.
Frank Monroy, whose consulting company The Image Store was hired to bring a new concept to the club, said he hopes to turn Rio Chicago into a restaurant, concert hall, nightclub and events venue.
The club held a “sneak peek” party May 23, the first time the doors had been opened to the public since the shooting.
Louie Menetti, brother of Sam Menetti, worked on the redesign and told DNAinfo Chicago he and his brother were seeking to appeal to a “better demographic” under the new name.
Menetti said he and his brother made the decision to drop the name Dolphin.
Monroy said Friday nights will feature live Latin music followed by DJs and Saturday nights will feature live rock music followed by DJs playing top 40 club hits similar to venues in River North.
“Louie is pretty much staying away from the hip hop type of thing,” Monroy said. “There won’t be any hip hop Sundays or hip hop Thursdays.
“He has a lot invested. They own the building and they want to see this work so they are putting a lot of resources behind it,” Monroy said.
The once-prominent Dolphin sign at the corner of Webster Avenue and Ashland has been stripped of its letters, but a placard in the sidewalk outside the front door featuring two dolphins remains.
Louie Menetti said Rio Chicago will, for the time being, only be open on weekends. He said the first official opening weekend was “very successful.”
The club is being billed as an “intimate lounge” and nightclub with a “new vibe” on its website.
The owners are looking to hire a talent buyer to book a full schedule of live rock shows.
“It’s almost going to be a small-scale what they are doing over at Metro,” Monroy said.
The restaurant portion of Rio will be up and running in about eight weeks, Monroy said.
On Monday, Elizabeth Gomez, a staffer from Waguespack’s office, said Sam Menetti has worked with the city’s law department to open the new club.
“It is still the Menettis that own it,” Gomez said. “The city’s law department worked with them about re-concepting and on a plan of operation and the police have talked to them as well.”
Steve Jensen, president of the Bucktown Community Organization and frequent presence at CAPS meeting in the neighborhood, said he hoped the new concept would be a fresh start for the embattled club.
“We hope that the problems of the past stay in the past and wish them well in their new business venture,” Jensen said. “We hope they can become more responsible over the entire area around their club and keep it clean and safe for their patrons and neighbors that pass by there on a regular basis.”
Sam Menetti and the city are both facing a lawsuit filed on behalf of Jackson’s 11-year-old daughter in April.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city would seek to shut down the club after the shooting, but no case had been filed as of Monday. Requests for comment from the mayor’s office were not returned Monday.
It’s not the first time the ownership has changed the name of the club, which formerly went by The Green Dolphin before re-opening in 2013 with a bigger focus on electronic music under the name The Dolphin.
The former Green Dolphin Street featured jazz and blues music as well as a restaurant.
The club has been ticketed and fined more than a dozen times since 2006 and has been the scene of a long-history of violent crimes, according to a DNAinfo Chicago analysis of police data.
Monroy said he believed the club would be able to successfully transition from Dolphin to Rio and become a more neighbor-hood friendly business.
“It’s a food and dancing environment,” he said. “The venue is perfect for it.”