UPTOWN — The show will go on at the Green Mill, which is reopening Friday with live music.
The legendary jazz club at 4802 N. Broadway is one of the only live music venues in the city opening Friday, the first day such businesses can open. It will be open from 3-11 p.m. daily, with live music every night.
After being closed for over three months, Green Mill owner Dave Jemilo said he’s moving forward with opening in an effort to keep the lights on.
“To get some kind of dough coming in,” Jemilo said about why he’s reopening. “We need to stay alive.”
Friday marks the start of Phase 4 of the city’s reopening plan following the stay at home order instituted to slow the spread of coronavirus. Under the plan, museums, bars, restaurant dining rooms and performance venues can again open their doors with social distancing and reduced capacity.
Most live entertainment venues in the city will not reopen Friday, however. Industry veterans have said that the reopening remains too challenging from a financial and logistical standpoint.
Jemilo said he understands those concerns, saying his reopening is an experiment that may or may not prove to be financially viable.
City regulations stipulate venues must operate at 25 percent capacity and that social distancing be observed inside the premise. For the Green Mill, that means a capacity of “44-and-a-half” people, Jemilo said.
Every other booth in the club will be closed off, and half of the usual number of dance floor tables will be up and running, Jemilo said. Customers must wear masks unless seated, per city rules.
To help stop the spread of coronavirus, there will be no vocal performances or wind instruments at the Green Mill. Instead, the live acts will play stringed instruments like piano and guitar, Jemilo said.
City rules also say that patrons can not remain at an establishment for more than two hours. The Green Mill will then host two sets of live music each night, and will turn over the house in between the sets —something the club never does, Jemilo said.
“I don’t even know if it will be worth it,” Jemilo said. “This is all unprecedented.”
The coronavirus shutdown has been brutal for the city’s bar and nightlife industry, with thousands of jobs lost and some venues wondering if they’ll ever be able to open again.
Jemilo said there is pent-up demand for live entertainment in the city. He would know, since a makeshift concert outside the Green Mill’s doors earlier this month drew quite a crowd.
Like other bars, the Green Mill opened its doors during the stay at home order to sell its stock of beer. Customers lined up to help out the club, so Jemilo thought to have a band play on the sidewalk for those waiting in line.
Two sidewalk concerts along Broadway were held, with neighbors and families pulling up chairs, giving donations to the band and sharing the drinks they just purchased from the Green Mill.
“It was the greatest thing you ever saw,” Jemilo said. “People really got a kick out of it.”
Some of the success of the event was tampered when city officials paid the Green Mill a visit following the second sidewalk concert, Jemilo said. The business affairs officials reminded the barkeep of the rules about live performances and let him off with a warning, he said.
Now, the Green Mill will get to do what it has been famous for since the 1910s.
“A lot of people are fired up,” Jemilo said about reopening. “I think it’s going to be good. I’m cautiously optimistic.”
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