End of the line for historic jazz-venue

Coronavirus restrictions have forced the iconic jazz-venue in St. Regnegade to close.

The famed venue Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen is closing due to continued corona-restrictions. Culture-minister voices interest in reaching-out, but the help has been ‘too little, too late’

Text and photo by Simon B. Porse

Since the late 1950’s the jazz-venue Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen has been an important hotspot for the European music-scene. Here musicians and musiclovers alike have shared a space for jazz of the highest calibre. But now the sounds of the saxophones and cymbals may have rung out for the last time.

On September 2nd, the venue in Store Regnegade announced the immediate cancellation of all future concerts, alongside the dismissal of the director, the chief of music and all staff and volunteers.

“It’s deeply regrettable, but it is not possible for us to continue the venue at the level of our artistic ambitions,” writes Jonas Dyrvad, CEO of Jazzhus Montmartre, naming corona-related restrictions virus as the main cause of the decision.

A place to play – and to stay

“It is deeply unfortunate,” says Anne Dvinge, former lecturer at Copenhagen University and researcher in Danish jazz-history. “But to be honest, I’m not surprised. It was a vulnerable venue, it always has been.”

The jazzhouse has for decades been a bustling stage hosting some of the biggest names in the scene – among them Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz.

“I don’t think, that the signigicance of Jazzhus Montmartre can be overrated,” Anne Dvinge makes clear. “This venue was the reason, that made big jazz-stars from the U.S. come – and not only to play, but to stay in Copenhagen.”

Since being established in 1959, it has relocated twice, and closed in 1995 only to reopen in its original location in St. Regnegade in 2010.

Over the years the venue has been a school and a teacher for generations of artists and has put Copenhagen on the map of European music history.

Seating less than half

Due to the coronavirus, restrictions in public spaces have impacted not only concert-places, but museums and bars all around the world.

According to the restrictions, the small but iconic jazz-venue, which usually hosts 85 people, has only been allowed to house 35 guests at any time.

Following the announcement of the shutdown, minister of culture, Joy Mogensen (S), announced, that she will seek out the possibilities of reaching out economically.

“We have the possibility to provide special aid here during the crisis, and I’d like to look into that possibility,” she wrote on Facebook.

But both Jonas Dyrved, CEO of Montmartre, and Anne Dvinge characterizes the support from the ministry as ‘too little, too late’.

“It just hasn’t been enough. The Ministry of Culture has been unwilling to understand the complexity of the challenge for the live-music ecosystem,” Anne Dvinge says, voicing an apparent frustration.

But despite the troubling circumstances, all is not yet lost for the former lecturer.
“This is the second incarnation of the venue,” she says. “So one can still hope, that it will rise again.”

Interactive: Below you find a playlist of songs recorded live at the renowned Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen.