The Smoke Jazz Club will reopen in July after a two-year hiatus
On March 15, 2020, just before the city was locked down by a pandemic, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Al Foster took the stage at the Smoke Jazz Club on the Upper West Side. The men, both over 70, were playing to a packed house in the intimate room.
“We were holding our breath hoping to get through the weekend,” said Paul Stache, co-owner of the club with his wife, Molly Sparrow Johnson. Luckily they finished the weekend without anyone getting sick, but by then it was clear that Covid-19 was an imminent threat. That Sunday, Stache and Johnson sat down and made a tough decision.
“We looked at each other and saw the size of the room and said, ‘You know, this doesn’t seem safe anymore’ and decided that night to shut it down,” Stache said. “At the time we thought it would be a few weeks, but of course it turned out to be very different.”
That day was the last time that musicians played in front of an audience inside the club. Like countless other venues, Smoke quickly turned to live-streamed performances, alfresco dining in glass greenhouses, and a revamped storefront for sidewalk concerts.
Stache and Johnson had long considered renovating the space, but Covid made it a necessity. Now, after more than two years, the newly refurbished club is reopening with a four-day celebration from Thursday July 21 to Sunday July 24.