For Joel Notes, it’s a far cry from selling baby cribs and strollers several decades ago to currently deciding on entertainment lineups and menu items.
Notes is ready to celebrate his sixth anniversary of operating the Cape Cabaret Dinner Theater in January. He had spent many years in retail and commercial real estate in the Washington, D.C. area, part of the time working with his father. He and his family also owned The Buddha and the Sandy Parrot venues in Fort Myers.
“If I see something that I’m intrigued by, I’ll try it,” Notes said, adding, “I really enjoy learning how something works.”
And he’s also willing to try new ways to draw guests to the approximately 14,000-square-foot venue which has multiple rooms and a bar area. It has undergone several changes in staff and programming, reflecting Notes’ ever-evolving vision.
While classic rock bands like the Cape-based Electric Lipstick plus tribute, Motown and Doo-Wopp groups still take the stage Wednesday through Saturday evenings, Notes is also striving to appeal more to the “40-to-60-year-old set” with recent infusions of blues performances. The award-winning Marty Stokes Band appears on the fourth Sunday afternoon each month and in August for the first time, a salsa dance band played. He’s looking to inject even more sophistication with some jazz performances beginning this fall.
Notes has also widened Cape Cabaret’s non-music offerings with standup comedians and he’s looking to bring in a ventriloquist and celebrity impersonators in the near future. He hopes to open up outdoor seating early next year as well.
Last July, Notes brought in longtime area restauranteur Jerry Nolan as his assistant and director of entertainment, and Pablo Felix, formerly with restaurants in Tampa and Fort Myers Beach, as executive chef. Felix, whose many culinary awards include the prestigious Chaîne des Rôtisseurs recognition in 1998, launched a new menu in late August.
“I’ve known him (Felix) for six years and first approached him three years ago,” said Notes. “I’m so glad he finally accepted!”
“We’re trying to be unique, have meals some people may not have heard of. Everyone has something to pick,” said Felix, noting such new courses as rainbow trout with gnocchi potatoes in alfredo sauce and seafood lasagna with spinach in lobster and béchamel sauce. Of the latter, “It’s been a nice hit,” he added, further noting vegan courses have also been added with more on the way soon.
Notes also credits five-year manager Jo McNally as being “a very integral part of our business.”
When the pandemic forced the facility to cease live performances from March to June of 2020, they did more to-go lunch and dinner orders (with cars parking outside and the meals brought to them) along with retail sales of household items that may have been hard to come by at retail stores during that period.
Cape Cabaret also hosts special events of all sizes; recent ones included a birthday party for the late rock star Brian Howe in July and a retirement party for Michael Moran, longtime executive director of the Cultural Park Theater, last month. Awards functions for the Roy Hobbs Baseball’s World Series program and Cape Coral recreational adult softball teams, charitable fundraising events, wedding receptions and holiday parties pack its schedule as well.
“We do them all,” said Joel’s wife and co-owner Carol.
“We were honored to host the event for Michael,” said Joel Notes. “And working with charitable organizations has always been important for us.
“My father had a sense of helping people, young parents, with high-quality and safe products for their babies. I got it from him. People having fun, enjoying themselves … eating, dancing, listening to music. Something happens inside me in seeing it.”
If you go
What: Cape Cabaret Dinner Theater
Where: 4725 Vincennes Blvd., Cape Coral
Information: 239-549-3000, capecabaret.com