Perhaps ignited by the presence of thousands of fun-seeking college students, Madison’s nightlife revs up to impressive levels nearly every weekend of the year. It has always outpaced other cities of its size for free-time fun opportunities. Aside from the obvious bars and restaurants, there are coffee shops, performance spaces, sports venues and picturesque public places.
As our city emerges from a cold, dark winter, Madisonians get out and gather together.
But not this year.
As government officials and the business community began responding to the outbreak of the coronavirus, restaurants and bars closed or switched to carry-out. The places and events where we run into old friends and make new ones have shut down. Stay at home, we were told. It’s safer there. More important: by staying home, we kept those who had to venture out safer as well.
In the process, nightlife in our city has taken on a dramatically different feel. The dance floor is in the living room now. Our favorite bartender looks a lot like our spouse. And the best table in the place is also where we play Scrabble and fold socks.
Cap Times visual journalist Ruthie Hauge spent the last three weeks going out while you were staying in, capturing normally lively locations in their new state of emptiness, and catching families and friends at play in their illuminated homes and apartments, a new kind of nightlife.
Barstools are stacked and the floor is ripped up inside of the closed Ideal Bar on Madison’s east side, at 9:26pm on May 1. Some area restaurants and bars have used the Safer at Home closures as an opportunity for renovations and upgrades.
Lisa Grunder and her daughter, Naomi Gallagher sing karaoke in their living room as they celebrate Naomi’s graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, at their east side Madison home, at 8:27pm on May 9.
Neon artwork by Helen Lee reads, “Haven’t you always wondered what it would finally take to stop us in our tracks?” and is displayed in a window at Garver Feed Mill during the Outside Looking In drive-thru art exhibition, at 8:30pm on May 1. Lee said, "Wonder, invites viewers to suspend the everyday stresses of the pandemic and consider the humanity that has been revealed by it."
Two University of Wisconsin-Madison students walk past the vacant Kollege Klub on campus, at 10:15pm on May 1. The popular campus tavern normally has a line of students waiting on the sidewalk for entry.