With The Specter Of Winter Looming, Venues Explore Paths Forward


Copenhagen’s Jazzhus Montmartre received no-strings-attached grant funding from its local city council, enabling the venue to soldier on amid the protracted coronavirus pandemic.

(Photo: Courtesy Jazzhus Montmartre)

“Twins did secure some funding from the local D.C. mayor’s office, but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep the doors open,” said Nielsen, daughter of club founder Kelly Tesfaye. “We could have stayed open as a restaurant, but that’s a heavy lift that would require my mom and aunt to be there, and we decided as a family it was just too risky. They’re both in their 70s, and just the thought of one of them getting sick and possibly dying when they were on the cusp of retiring anyway didn’t make sense.”

Though Twins might be the only Ethiopian-Caribbean fusion restaurant that doubles as a jazz club, its situation is hardly unique in the States. Innumerable music venues across the country have been shuttered since the pandemic hit, including Chicago’s California Clipper, an intimate speakeasy-style joint with a colorful history that closed in March. New Orleans, world-famous for its live music, has been hit especially hard. Popular indie hot spot Gasa Gasa closed in July, and the Circle Bar locked its doors forever in early October. Meanwhile, Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro is in “wait-and-see mode,” according to manager and owner Nickomus Leiker. To help bridge the pandemic gap, the venue now is offering weekend takeout from the club’s restaurant, selling DVDs of the Snug Live Jazz Series and hoping to resume hosting regular livestreams soon.

Even the iconic Tipitina’s (now owned by NOLA band Galactic), which continues to stream live concerts, faces an uncertain future.

“We’ve made it known that we do need help. We’re confident that we can make it through this, but not without help from donations, contributions, sponsors,” Galactic drummer Stanton Moore said, while noting the indeterminacy of and end-date for all of this was concerning. “Tipitinas.tv, we just announced season two. That’s working out well, but that’s not replacing the income that we’ve lost through all of this. It’s steps in the right direction; we’re able to keep the brand and the club at the front of people’s minds.”

Nielsen and her team at Twins are watching all these developments closely while strategizing their own comeback, most likely at a different location, which they hope to announce by the holidays.

“There’s nothing off the table,” she said. “We know this business very well, so we know the steps we need to reopen, and I’m excited to see what the new Twins Jazz will look like. We realized, after we closed our doors, with the outpouring of love and sadness, that we were able to be in this game for 33 years. We couldn’t just walk away. We’ve seen a lot of musicians come in as teenagers, and now they’re playing at the Kennedy Center and gigging around the world. And we want to continue to be a pipeline for musicians—and for students—to continue their support of jazz.” DB

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