Survivor opens smoke-free jazz club

By Melissa Garcia- June 30, 2005

The smooth sounds of jazz flowed through the low roar of the crowd. Men and women clustered together, chatting, laughing and savoring an atmosphere unlike any other in Gainesville.

TC's Smoke-free Jazz and Funk Dance Lounge opened Friday night at Steve's Cafe Americain, featuring live jazz music, a funk band and dancing without the usual haze of cigarette smoke.

Terry Chester, President and CEO of his own international advertising company, Adbiz, said he decided to open the club as an entertainment option for people who hate the smell and dangers of cigarette smoke but are still looking for a chance to dance and "boogie."

People paid a $15 cover charge of which $5 went to benefit the Climb for Cancer Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that raises money for cancer research and programs to help improve the quality of life of cancer patients.

The night began with food, drinks, and socializing to the lively jazz tunes of Chester's 25-year-old son Zac on piano.

Zac's piano melodies were later accompanied by the vocals of Natalie Rella, a local jazz vocalist.

Approaching the microphone, Rella welcomed the crowd and said, "Raise your hands if you love a smoke-free environment!"

The room filled with the raised hands of Chester's friends and supporters of the cancer foundation.

In addition to a night of fun fundraising, the event also celebrated the return of Ron Farb, co-founder of the Climb for Cancer Foundation, from Mount Everest.

Farb, 59, said he plans to climb the tallest mountain on every continent and has already completed four of the seven. He has reached the summits of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mount McKinley in Alaska, Mount Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount Elbrus in Russia.

With his wife Dianne, Farb used his expeditions to create the Climb for Cancer Foundation to raise money for cancer research.

"If I am going to go, then why don't I do that to fight my enemy, which is cancer," Farb said.

Farb said over the past year the foundation has raised about $180,000, which will be matched by state funds and go to the Univeristy of Florida Foundation to be dispersed.

He left for Everest in March and spent 10 days trekking to base camp. Farb reached camp three at 24,000 feet but was unable to reach the summit due to inclement weather.

He does not plan to return to Everest, he said.

"Once is enough for me," Farb said. "I'm proud of what I've accomplished."

Farb said he arrived at the lounge tired and 22 pounds lighter but was very happy to see so many people come to the event. He thanked his supporters for their donations and coming together for a night of jazz.

"I haven't had a good meal in a long time, so I'm going to eat," Farb said before giving the floor to the Jacksonville funk band BEAM.

The band kicked off the dancing playing covers of classic groove music such as Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it on."

Gainesville ballroom dance instructors Susan LeBron and Bill DeFeo were the first couple on the dance floor and entertained the crowd with the hustle.

LeBron heard about the lounge opening from a friend and decided to come for the music, environment and to support the cause, she said.

"I would love to have this regularly," she said.

Most of the guests were either friends of Chester or supporters of the foundation.

Katy Kavanagh and her sister Susan Adams, both Gainesville residents and friends of the Farbs like the foundation's local charity base and try to contribute as much as they can.

"I don't want to climb a mountain, but I'll go to all the events," Kavanagh said.

Aside from dancing and donation, people found the unique atmosphere both different and pleasant.

"I have to say that a smoke-free jazz place is oxymoronic," said Weaver Gaines, a friend of Chester and local resident.

But Bissy Fink, a friend of Chester's daughter, said she enjoyed a break from the haze she finds at other local bars and clubs.

"I hate going home smelling like smoke," she said. "I'm a smoker, and I think that's disgusting."

Due to the surprising turn out of at least 130 people, Chester said he definitely wants to have another smoke-free jazz night in the future.

He presented a check for $820 to the cancer foundation.

"The first purpose of this is to get the five dollars for Climb for Cancer," he said.

"The second purpose is to have a blast."

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Melissa Garcia / words + designs