By Billy Eye
The limited ability to enjoy eating out at my favorite restaurants with family and friends has me nostalgic for those grand supper clubs of old that, for several decades, flourished in Greensboro. Especially Green’s Supper Club, last of the city’s casually elegant nightclubs.
During World War II, dance halls like The Green Lantern, The Silver Moon, Southern Comfort and The Casino Club (located at the fairgrounds, where the Greensboro Coliseum is now) were the epicenters of the city’s nightlife. It wasn’t until Fred Koury’s Plantation Supper Club opened in 1943 that nightlife took a more dignified turn.
The Plantation on High Point Road (now Gate City Blvd) was booking top tier acts like Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Jayne Mansfield, Brenda Lee, The Righteous Brothers, Duke Ellington and Jerry Lee Lewis. The joint was so fashionable that, within a few years, the Supper Club concept took off in other areas of town. While they all offered excellent Southern cuisine, due to state ABC restrictions, alcohol could not be served.
Green’s Supper Club on U.S. 29 opened in 1952, the same year “brown bagging” became legal. This arcane system allowed patrons to discreetly bring in their own booze for cocktails for a small service fee. (Direct liquor sales in Greensboro bars and restaurants didn’t become a reality until the 1980s.)
Green’s 15,000-square-foot complex was famous for its stand-alone oyster bar, tender Kansas City steaks and perfectly roasted prime rib. Universally revered for his kindness and generosity toward his employees, owner George Green famously purchased only the finest cuts of meat for his appreciative diners.
Long after The Plantation became Dadio’s disco in the mid-1970s, Green’s dance floor was packed with the World War II generation on weekends. Couples swang and swayed to the dulcet tones of local musicians Tom McDonald and the Scotsman, Dick Wells and Burt Massengale, plus big name AOR touring acts like Tommy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, Benny Goodman and Count Basie bands, all slow jamming there well into the 1990s.
In 2016, I conducted an interview with Marvel Comics artist Randy Green. His father, Frank, took over the iconic eatery following his brother, George’s, death in 1992. “It was always fun to watch people dance,” Randy recalled about going there as a youngster. “It was darkly lit with candles on the tables, everybody dressed up for the most part. They had a big band playing so it was something you didn’t get anywhere else when you went out.” Some say the place was never the same after George Green passed away, but the quality of the food and conviviality never wavered.
Despite being a popular spot for holiday parties and class reunions, Green’s Supper Club closed in 2012 after 60 years, the oyster bar and prime rib station remaining open up to the very last hour. The building and property are being well maintained, perhaps in the hope that Greensboro will once again embrace a more sophisticated nightclub experience.
Billy Eye was so into Santa he wrote and starred in five hours of Christmas specials for the Bravo network in 2005–06 and portrayed Father Tobias in A Killer Christmas Carol film. He has an extensive tribute to Christmases of old at TVparty.com.