‘Save The Ivory Room’: Downtown businesses fear winter

MADISON, Wis.– As the temperature continues to fall, businesses depending on Madison’s Streatery Program are searching for ways to survive the winter.

The Ivory Room owners Julie and Jack Sasnowski reinvented the piano bar’s style to fit coronavirus restrictions. Pianos sit in the window and customers sit on the outside patio facing Mifflin Street.

The crowd can still request its favorite piano ballads by writing it down on sticky notes and placing them on the window. Requests and tips can also be made on their Facebook live or Venmo, a mobile payment service.

“We’ve been very, very fortunate with the group of pianists that we have. They’ve been doing this for free,” Bob Sulser, Sasnowski’s stepfather, said. “All they do is take the tips that people will leave for them.”

The outdoor innovation is pulled off with the help of Julie’s mom and stepdad, both eager to keep the music alive.

“They’re just about ready to do almost anything they can to keep it open, but again, it’s a struggle. It’s a challenge,” Sulser said. “It’s worked out very well for us, but again, we aren’t getting the revenues we need to pay the rent.”

Winter is coming and the cost to stay open won’t be cheap, especially when the weather prevents the patio from opening.

Sosnowski set up a GoFund Me page with a goal of $50,000 to cover rent.

The owners and their helpers will hold on as long as they can.

“It will be devastating to lost this for Madison. We have a great group of people coming in from all over,” Sulser said. “Whether or not we can sustain it in the way things are going now, it’s so difficult to say.”

The Ivory Room is open of Friday and Saturday nights dependent on the weather.