By Schaen Fox
Like most people, I’ve been exceptionally bored at home and missing our frequent trips to Madison’s beloved Shanghai Jazz. In addition, I’ve worried whether the club would survive the prolonged lockdown and where the New Jersey Jazz Society would hold its socials if it didn’t. I’m happy to report that it has survived, adapted and recently reopened. On June 1, Tom Donohoe, the owner, received the go-ahead to resume outside dining service and music beginning June 15.
He set to work immediately. “I was working on it 15 hours a day until about 4:30 on June 15,” he said. I had a lot of volunteer help. My mother did a bunch of gardening and landscaping. I had cousins putting up tenting, pressure washing the blacktop. My staff came, and we continued to clean and organize inside. We worked very hard to keep everyone as safe as possible. We have more than doubled our cleaning and sanitation efforts. Our staff is wearing gloves and branded Shanghai Jazz facemasks. We published our staff handbook on our website if anyone had concerns about our sanitation practices.”
As they did with other restaurants, officials offered him some space in the adjacent municipal lot, but he chose to transform only the restaurant’s own lot. “The stage area is close to the building with a tent over the musicians,” he added. ‘We brought our normal sound system outside. We have about 20 tables and we can fit probably 85 people out there very comfortably with lots of space in between. Everyone has a view of the music, and the sound is good. It is comfortable.”
Pianist Tomoko Ohno’s duo was first to appear, and she was impressed. “It is really amazing. There were baskets on the tables with hand sanitizer in them. Tom’s mother put beautiful flowers between the tables, and that makes a really important difference in the atmosphere. It is very spacious and so nice. I almost feel like I’m playing in a resort hotel. I can’t think of any other place that could open up in this way.” Trumpeter Warren Vache, who led his group the next evening, concurred, and added, “They are doing the best they can. Tom is working his tail off. They are going to continue having live music, which is a very courageous thing to do.”
Ohno added, “We really enjoyed eating outside.” Perhaps some of that enjoyment was due to the new items on the menu, which, Donohoe noted, “were well received. The flavors and the presentations are all dynamite. And there is a new focus on super fresh seasonal ingredients.” The full menu is on the website (www.shanghaijazz.com) along with the list of upcoming attractions. Naturally, music and dining are dependent on Mother Nature. “If there is inclement weather,” Donohoe said, “a decision will be made by 2 p.m., and we will offer anyone with reservations take out to bring home.” He added that the first few nights were “very successful. The weather cooperated, and we were almost full with a great crowd.” Ohno agreed, “We got a lot of comments. It has been so long and people were so happy to see us.” Drummer Nick Scheuble and his daughter, pianist Leonieke Scheuble, were scheduled to appear on Wednesday night, July 8, but that engagement was canceled to due to the weather. They have been rescheduled for Wednesday night, July 22
FYI: The facemasks are selling for $8 each.