Tucked in the bustling Capitol District at the Marriott Hotel, The Jewell offers live music, a cocktail lounge and fine dining all in one vibrant location.
With hand-crafted cocktails, sinfully dry martinis and full-bodied fine wines, the posh atmosphere brings a taste of New York with a twist of New Orleans to Omaha.
The name “The Jewell” pays homage to the local music impresario, Jimmy Jewell, and the original Jewell building in North Omaha.
The vision for the Dreamland Ballroom, located on 24th and Lake streets in North Omaha, started around 1922 when Jimmy Grant Jewell wanted to bring jazz to the community. The traveling music acts of the era needed a space to perform, and Jewell Sr. wanted to create a music venue in North Omaha, and he did just that with The Jewell venue.
The original innovators and master craftsmen of jazz all played at The Jewell’s Dreamland Ballroom. Bands from Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday and all the jazz greats, performed at venues in North Omaha.
“It has an unbelievable jazz history that we need to celebrate. We need to bring that to the forefront, and I wanted to create something to honor that,” says Brian McKenna, CEO and artistic director. “I think that’s something I’ve been trying to do now at the Capitol District is to bring all different types of people together through the power of music.”
Local and national artists make their home at The Jewell, with music ranging from jazz, blues and R&B soul to Americana, bluegrass, and old school funk.
“I’ve never labeled it a jazz venue; a lot of people have done that because it reminds them of a jazz venue. The Jewell is mainly a music venue,” McKenna says. “We’ve had everything, and that’s what music is all about, when you provide that variety that gives a universal approach, you’re giving a little bit to each person.”
A native of New York, McKenna received an offer to work at SONY Music Entertainment in 1991. From there, he worked his way up to becoming vice president of audio and marketing, staying in that position for 16 years. After the studio was sold in 2007, he opened his own agency, managing musicians, singers and other entertainers.
In 2015, McKenna made his way to Nebraska to work remotely for his management agency. He longed to fill a void in music. From there, the idea of The Jewell came to life.
“We finished construction around 2018. We built it from scratch and partnered with the Marriott and Capitol District folks,” McKenna says. “The Marriott complements us pretty well. We opened in 2019 and unfortunately, then, the pandemic hit. So, we never got a fair chance to launch the business, until luckily, this year, we are starting to blossom.”
Centrally located in the Heartland, The Jewell is a hotspot for up-and-coming local and national artists.
The Jewell has featured artists such as David Sanborn, American saxophonist, and John JR Robinson. Considered the most recorded drummer in the history of music, Robinson has worked with artists from Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston to Barbra Streisand.
“When you have an amazing artist like John JR Robinson coming through, they start playing all the hits,” McKenna says. “The Michael Jackson hits and the Whitney Houston hits, everyone just gravitated, they couldn’t believe they were meeting this person, let alone hearing this person.”
The sold-out show was accompanied with a standing ovation and a memory that McKenna says he’ll remember forever.
The intimate ambiance allows its guests to immerse themselves in the entire experience. The Jewell continuously strives for high quality, from the music to the cocktails.
“I’m trying to create an experience that I’ve never had before here in Omaha,” McKenna says. “This is more than just a restaurant– it’s live music in a relaxed, comfortable environment that allows you to be entertained with high-quality music.” ◆