SAYREVILLE — With new ownership comes a new name and image for the nightclub formerly known as the Hunka Bunka Ballroom.
The coming weeks will bring the grand re-opening of the venue that will now be known to club-goers as the Starland Ballroom.
The new owners, Gate to Wire LLC, comprising Concerts East Inc. and other private investors, hope to improve the club and create what was described in a press release from the company as "New Jersey’s first world-class concert nightclub."
The club, located at 570 Jernee Mill Road, will present live music ranging from rock and pop to jazz, as well as weekly dance parties, comedy nights and other live productions. The club will present a concentration of national acts, and will feature local acts as openers, according to Jon Vena, a spokesperson for Concerts East.
The first concerts being scheduled for the Starland Ballroom include a Dec. 4 MTV2 Headbanger’s Ball concert, a Dec. 6 Dramarama reunion, and a Dec. 7 appearance by former Van Halen singer David Lee Roth.
In late October, Concerts East — which is managing and booking the Starland — ceased its operation of the Birch Hill nightclub in Old Bridge. That club closed Oct. 26 to make way for the construction of a retirement community on the property.
Concerts East describes itself as the largest independent concert promoter in the tri-state metropolitan area. The company currently produces more than 500 events a year on the East Coast. It operates venues in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and Connecticut, and hopes to make the Starland Ballroom "the culmination of the company’s experience in the marketplace and industry."
In a statement, Concerts East likened the Starland Ballroom to such nationally recognized venues as Boston’s Avalon Ballroom, Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club, and New York City’s Roseland Ballroom and Irving Plaza.
"Like other premier concert venues, it will have graduated flooring, improved sight lines, a raised stage, higher ceilings, air conditioning and heating," said Tony Pallagrosi of Concerts East.
The club hopes to accommodate touring bands with its "state-of-the-art sound and lighting" and a renewed presence that will attract large acts. The ballroom will also be available to rent for private social or corporate gatherings.
According to Pallagrosi, the new Starland Ballroom will quickly distinguish itself as a top New Jersey venue because it will fill the void left after the recent closing of Tradewinds and the shut-down of Birch Hill.
"It will be everything that was and everything that hasn’t been in New Jersey," Pallagrosi said.
The club will have a liquor license following the sale of the venue from its previous owners, Frank Sementa, Kip Connor and Bernie Bailey, according to Concerts East representatives.
Bailey had purchased the club, known as the Jernee Mill Inn, in 1982.