Like many Big Island music venues affected by the pandemic, Gertrude’s Jazz Bar’s past year has been a roller coaster of on-again, off-again plans. The popular venue decided to close last March just before a big St. Patrick’s Day event, featuring the Hawaii Irish Dancers and The Kilt Lifters, just as the entertainment world came to a halt.
“Closing the venue wasn’t actually a surprise. It was getting to a point where bands were starting to cancel anyway,” recalled co-owner Greg Shirley in an interview for Big Island Music Magazine. “They were talking about bailing anyway just because of the whole [pandemic] thing. And then it turned out that we officially had to close, so, we did.”
On June 4, Gertrude’s announced a grand reopening with bands getting paid from the door cover charges, a new take-out menu, and a limited number of couples allowed on the dance floor. Bluesman Tomi Isobe played two shows at Gertrude’s after Mayor Kim allowed restaurants to offer dine-in services once again. The struggling venue received another blow a month later when a staff member tested positive for COVID after a visiting relative was infected. There was a temporary two-week shutdown before re-opening on July 15. Two weeks later, the venue closed again.
On August 2, Gertrude’s Jazz Bar announced another temporary closure. “We’re in escrow,” explained co-owner Marlina Shirley via email. “The buyer wants to keep it the same and open in the daytime, too. They have great musical connections, and they’ll put out more details as they reopen.” Unfortunately, the deal fell through, and the Shirleys started looking for a new buyer. A post on their Facebook page kept a positive outlook: “We need creative ideas to move forward and thrive in this post-lockdown COVID environment.”
The venue has remained closed for the past six months until a glimmer of hope surfaced a few days ago. “Gertrude’s Jazz Bar, in the heart of Kailua Kona’s Historic Village, will be reopening its doors Wednesday, February 10, for a Valentine’s week full of a variety of top entertainment!” announced Marlina Shirley in a press release.
Gertrude’s website entertainment calendar is once again populated with live shows. I asked Marlina if there were any changes coming with the announcement of the 2021 reopening. “[It’s the] same ownership. We’re pretty much the same, and we just added karaoke in the back bar after the live music ends.”
Gertrude’s Jazz Bar’s Entertainment Schedule
Feb. 10, Wednesday- Open Mic, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 11, Thursday- Latin Band Fuego, 7 p.m. & 9 p.m., $5 cover per show
Feb. 12, Friday- Ms. Demeanor & The Felons, 7 p.m. & 9 p.m., $5 cover per show
Feb. 13, Saturday- Lucky Tongue, 7 p.m. & 9 p.m., $5 cover per show
Feb. 14, Sunday- Valentine’s Day with Johnny Valentine, 6:30 p.m. & 8 p.m., $10 cover per show
Karaoke starts in the back bar Speakeasy after live music ends on Thursday, Friday, & Saturday nights.
Gertrude’s has been voted “Best Music Venue” by West Hawaii residents for the last 3 years in a row. Gertrude’s open-air venue will be following all CDC guidelines, so remember your mask. Reservations can be made at Yelp.com. For more information and a complete entertainment schedule, go to www.gertrudesjazzbar.com or call 808-327-JAZZ.
Photo: Steve Roby