Music is a community unifier. The Soul Exchange’s Bleu Clarinet’s goal has been to reignite Glen Cove’s love of the arts. Since being welcomed into the city in June 2020, Marck Benjamin, owner of Bleu Clarinet and resident of Glen Cove, has aimed to give back to the city’s residents as the only local soul-food restaurant.
Over the holidays, on Jan. 1, Bleu Clarinet joined Glen Cove resident Bobby DeGraff to provide 35 meals to families in need.
“It was in my heart to just do something for the homeless,” Benjamin said. “We made 35 plates of quality food that they could enjoy and have a nice holiday meal.”
Hoping to provide fun in the evening in Glen Cove, the restaurant has been open Thursday to Sunday from 4 to 11 p.m., providing soul food buffets, Sunday brunches with jazz, and dinners between 5 to 9 p.m. After dinner service, the restaurant becomes enlivened with live entertainment by local DJs and different genres of music.
“The community really needs some uplifting,” he said. “This is an old school type of community that loves good house music and just needs a place to do that. People want to go out.”
Benjamin recognizes the importance people place on being cautious. But as long as they are wearing masks and in a place with the proper ventilation why not go out, he said.
The pandemic has not made it easy for businesses to remain open. Prices for food products have increased. Bleu Clarinet has taken measures to remain affordable for their customers by staying within costs so that menu items would not be overpriced.
“We sustained,” Benjamin said. “It is up and down. Depending how covid hits, it is almost like the stock market. If Covid is high then we are low, and if it is low then we are high.”
No severe Covid outbreaks have been found among the employees. And Covid precautions have been in place to ensure that customers are safe by giving access to hand sanitizer and masks.
There have been changes at Bleu Clarinet to increase business. It will soon host Freestyle Night. With success, the event will be held every Friday along with a potential expansion to Latin Night on Saturdays. These events have been in collaboration with Glen Cove resident Sal Leotta, owner of the local social media agency Guerrilla Marketing.
“Glen Cove, historically, has been a music town surrounded by music and great people and great communities. Everyone in Glen Cove and the local surrounding areas, Locust Valley, Sea Cliff, and Oyster Bay, we all really stick together as far as support and keeping culture alive,” Leotta said. Glen Cove in particular has a very long history, with freestyle music. It was especially popular in the 1980s and 90s among people of Italian Latin heritage.
“Whenever we speak to our parents, every family party we go to there are always hints of freestyle music playing,” Leotta said. “There is something to be said there as far as the impact that it has on our parents and our community.”
Benjamin has recently partnered with Carlton Williams, a Farmingdale resident, to bring these new changes to fruition. As a partner of Bleu Clarinet, Williams hoped to make improvements so the community will give the restaurant a second chance. These improvements include a new chef, an increase in staffing and changes to the menu.
“I understand that the reviews were not great a while ago. I am new to the place, new management,” he said. “I [listen to] all of these concerns and I do not take them lightly.”
Williams has focused on each issue and has made changes to provide the best service, he said. “I would like for them to give me a chance,” he said. “Come out. Hang out. … Give us a try not based on the old reputation but on what we have going on right now.”