A retired FBI agent is reopening a Jefferson Avenue bar that could become the site of a museum dedicated to musician Rick James.
Plans for the museum are in preliminary stages, pending the outcome of negotiations between Pixie Bar owner Kenny Ivy and the James estate.
But the bar, at 1359 Jefferson Ave., is a more sure thing, since there’s more to it than a real estate opportunity. Ivy said he’s pursuing the project to fulfill a deathbed promise made to Eugene Albert, his surrogate father and former property owner.
After Ivy graduated from Grover Cleveland High School in 1981, he became a police officer, then joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His FBI career included units focused on computer crime, terrorism, violent gangs, and violent street crime.
In 2013, Ivy was working in Nigeria, where he was legal attache to the U.S. Embassy.
There, Ivy recollected, he received word that Albert, the man who treated him as a son, was failing. Over a Skype teleconferencing connection, Albert: “Son, will you do me a favor? After 40 years in business, “I didn’t go out on top. Will you resurrect my business for me?”
“In your honor, absolutely,” Ivy told him.
Afterward, Ivy allowed, he thought of the Buffalo winters and wondered what he’d promised. Since leaving Buffalo, he’s lived in Miami, Washington D.C., Houston, and warm-weather climates.
But he promised. Buffalo’s Planning Board is taking up the bar’s reopening in a special use permit hearing on March 11.
“I’m planning on a place where you can have a nice drink, have some nice appetizers,” Ivy said. In letter to the Planning Board, he described it as a “secure/upscale 30 years of age and older lounge.”
The building, which will be completely renovated, would have residential space on the second floor.
What has attracted more attention is the possible – “possible,” Ivy repeats – Rick James museum. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I am in negotiation with the estate, to see if that can happen.”
Once he gets city support, and has his building under renovation, the James bid gets stronger, Ivy said. His connection is through his attorney, LeRoi Johnson, James’ older brother.
There’s no set timeline for the project, but once the city permits and approvals are in place, his general contractor can pull permits and get to work, Ivy said.
Send restaurant tips to email@example.com and follow @BuffaloFood on Instagram and Twitter.