“You should write a story on The Stage II,” wrote a reader recently. “It was the spot to be and be seen.” Located at North 30th and Bedford, The Stage II really was a magnet for nightlife in North Omaha. Here’s a short history.
In The Beginning
Opened in the mid-1970s, throughout its entire existence The Stage II has been owned by brothers Frank and Tom Dailey. Long before that, back in 1904, a hall was built on the same site as the Dailey’s building. Called “The Neighborhood Improvement Club,” locals held meetings, dances and parties there, as well as political events and cultural activities. At some point it became a store, and in 1940 the building was empty and burnt down by “boys playing with matches,” according to the Omaha World- Herald.
The Douglas County Assessors office says the current building at 3210 North 30th Street was constructed in 1947. Built as a long, narrow storefront setback from the street by a small parking lot, it has 2232 square feet of space. The original business there was called Cooper’s Frosted Food Shop, and was essentially a convenience store.
Just two years later a restaurant called Jerry and Johnny’s Drive-In opened. They offered a regular menu and entertainment and became one of North Omaha’s hotspots for nightlife and good times.
Years later, Omaha musical icon Preston Love Sr. listed Jerry and Johnny’s in the same breath as other vital performance spaces in the community, including McGill’s Blue Room; the Apex; the Offbeat Club; Allen’s Showcase; the M&M; and the Dreamland Ballroom. Love said all of these places had good crowds, while some had big dances and performers every weekend. This puts Jerry and Johnny’s in a vaunted crowd.
In 1953, this place was raided by the Omaha Police Department “Morals Squad” and seven people were arrested. After Jerry and Johnny’s closed, George Greenblatt reopened the spot as The Flamingo Bar. In 1962, his liquor license was revoked for selling liquor in reused bottles. The business survived though when V. D. “Viv” Henderson bought it, keeping it open until March 1974. Viv marketed it as a laid back establishment, and often hosted sports teams from the Near North Side YMCA, Kappa Alpha Psi, and other organizations.
Opening The Stage II
Frank and Tom Dailey opened The Stage II Lounge in 1974. In 1970, they’d opened Dailey’s Package Liquor across the street at 3113 North 30th Street. According to a 1990 interview with The Omaha Star, Frank had worked in a packing plant for almost 20 years, and wanted to open a store in North O. When the Flamingo went up for sale, he jumped at the opportunity.
Dark red booths, deep brown wood paneling and a drop ceiling made the space chill, and the mirrors, long bar and dance floor were comfortable for a lot of people. The cinder block building was never much to look at, but with parking on either side of North 30th Street, The Stage II quickly became one of North O’s livest nightspots.
Through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, Stage II hosted a variety of musicians, comedians and other performers. Talent nights featured local performers, including Omahan comedians Bobby “Swob-Bob” Demby and Gaylan “Jabber Gold” Drake, as well as guitarist Calvin Keys and Omaha’s own Vernon Garrett. The Stage II also hosted many benefits and special events. Political candidates, special fundraisers for community members, and others benefited from The Stage II’s generously sharing its space. A fundraiser for presidential hopeful Jesse Jackson was held there in 1984, raising $2,000 for the candidate. In 1990, they played host to a visit by President George Bush, who spoke at a special platform in the parking lot and toured the nearby Mad Dads center.
In 1984, Stage II owner Frank Dailey partnered with Shirley Jordan to open Cleopatra’s at 6553 Ames Avenue. Their goal was to bring national talent to Omaha twice monthly to this supper club, and provide an upscale entertainment experience. They both kept their other lounges open, too.
While other local bars complained about harassment from white officers with the Omaha Police Department, in 1990 Thomas Dailey was quoted saying, “It doesn’t bother me,” and that they’d only had three or four plain clothes visits in 16 years of business.
The lounge hosted a bowling team in the 1970s.
The Stage II has used both DJs and live bands for more than 30 years.
Today, The Stage II is the longest-running Black-owned night club in Omaha, and one of the longest-running Black-owned businesses in the city, too. Apparently, the place hasn’t changed much on the interior since it was opened in 1974. The crowd there is older, and people like that it doesn’t have the drama of younger peoples’ clubs. With a laid back ambiance, a lot of people like the good music and fine drinks, too.
Other people have complained about the outdated interior and ripped seats. There’s been a significant amount of violence at The Stage II over the years also, and people have complained about that.
Although I don’t like sharing them, the rumor is that The Stage II is closing soon. As simple and outdated as it might be, this iconic building and business deserves to be remembered for its value beyond appearances. Frank Dailey is now 80 years old. His lounge is a heart in North Omaha, and when its gone much love will go with it.
Long live The Stage II Lounge.