UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- The owners of Smoke Jazz Club on the Upper West Side, say they feel fortunate to have survived the pandemic when so many other places were forced to close.
Paul Stache and his wife, Molly Johnson, credit a very sympathetic landlord with allowing them to continue, but the couple also made their own luck by using the lengthy closure to expand and make the club more comfortable.
"Smoke" is a dream realized for the former waitress and the former bartender who fell in love while working there a couple of decades ago and decided to buy the place.
Today, they share the best of this music with all who are willing to listen.
"The great thing about this music is that its improvised music," Paul said. It's never played the same way twice."
And, that proved true for the owners as well.
"We had to improvise quite a bit the last two and a half, three years," Paul said. "And, that really was the only way to do it."
Where there is Smoke, there is fire: red-hot jazz to chase away the winter blues in the crimson jewel of a club that's a labor of love for these two.
"We both love what we do," Molly said. "It's a joy that many people don't have, and we get to share that love together."
The pair were tested when the pandemic hit and what they first thought would be a two-week closure lasted more than two years.
"It was one of those moments when we realized we either gonna close or get bigger," Paul said.
So, they added a lounge next door to the original room where patrons can hear the shows on speakers for the price of a drink.
"We wanted to make it our mission to expose more people to this great music," Molly said.
Eyewitness News Entertainment Reporter Sandy Kenyon asked the couple, if given some of the challenges they faced, are the nights of great music a little sweeter?
"Absolutely," she replied with a big smile, "100%."
"Having the music playing and having people walk in and out with smiles on their faces you know that sort of makes it all worthwhile," Paul said.
Great music and equally great food prove a perfect recipe for a lovely evening out at "Smoke."
It is one of the most beautiful and elegant clubs in New York City, and certainly one of the most romantic, but a date night there will not break the bank.
If you're not sure an evening of jazz is for you, then why not head to Smoke's lounge, order a drink, and just listen!