Over the years, the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett has been a place to go and be social, often while enjoying great live music. It has always been a viable beacon of light for the nightlife of the Hamptons. The roster of names who have performed on that famous stage there starts with Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Jon Bon Jovi, Coldplay, The Killers, Mumford & Sons, and continues with thousands of names. In a talk with longtime Talkhouse spokesperson Nick Kraus, he shared that the Talkhouse is once again open and hosting live music.
Kraus says he remembers the first time he ever entered the Talkhouse. It was in 1988 as a young teen accompanied by his mother, who took him to see John Mayall, the band leader who helped discover Eric Clapton. Therefore, Kraus has felt a very special reverence for the Talkhouse for many years.
Addressing the present situation, Kraus said, “As of now, we are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Thursday we do our Trivia Night, Friday and Saturday we are doing live music. We are working under a 33 percent capacity when we have live music, and a 75 percent capacity when there is not live music. That’s just the N.Y. State rules. We are hoping that will be expanded as soon as people get vaccinated, and this virus gets more under control, as the numbers go. We are looking forward to expanding to seven nights a week once we get into summer. The closing time now is 11 p.m. We hope that time will be lifted either entirely or moved to a little bit later time, the sooner the better.”
So, when he was asked what was toughest about the last year, he replied, “It was just a horrible feeling all around to see what everyone’s going through in the big picture, of course, but the nightlife industry took a particularly hard hit – and that includes us [the Talkhouse]. Seeing the main room empty for the last year, up until last Friday night when Nancy [Atlas] was on the stage again, was heartbreaking. The Talkhouse is more than a job to me. It’s my sort of world, it’s my social life, my income, and to see that all completely disappear for a year was pretty devastating. We tried to make the most of it, and now we have gotten through it and we are opened up again.”
When asked about a personal positive during the last year, Kraus was forthcoming when he said, “For me personally, yes, but I wouldn’t trade the good moments for all the loses everybody had – from people passing away. But if there is any kind of silver-lining for me personally, the mandate of having to be closed by 11 p.m. or 12 a.m. later on, last summer was the first time that I had a normal summer as other people would, in terms of waking up early, spending time with my kids, riding my bike, and getting a fair amount of stuff done before noon. I got to do stuff most other people get to do in terms of just taking advantage of the natural beauty of the area. Riding my bike every day and things like that made my life a lot healthier.”
When asked about the bookings of live shows, Kraus explained, “We are working sort of backwards than we usually do with all the musical acts scrambling to put their acts back together.” The schedule is limited at the moment, but he feels “other shows may be added to the present schedule as time goes by, perhaps by August, September, and October.” He added that the virtual shows that were done by Nancy Atlas and the other local live musicians were important to keep the soul and spirit of the Talkhouse alive during those dark days of last year. “Nancy really brought everybody together, we are not going to try and think outside the box, moving forward. This last year gave us an opportunity to explore, not by choice, but it showed what we can do with the room. Back in the day, because of the low ceilings it was hard to light the main room to the standard for the meters on the cameras people were using. Now with an iPhone you don’t need to have a ton of lights brought in to have the images look good on the stage. So virtual shows are the kind of thing we might like to explore in the future, even with the live audience. We are looking at doing things like a podcast where we can tap into Peter Honerkamp’s knowledge and story-telling skills. I want to mention, speaking of the last year, we lost Paul Jones to COVID. He worked at the door for us for over ten years, that’s devastating. He was a great guy and will be missed.”
Kraus mentioned just before the COVID-19 situation, the Talkhouse made improvements to the stage and sound system that no one really was able to experience. Hopefully, now those improvements will enhance the live shows. He said, “The place looks good, we re-shingled the outside, but it’s the kind of place you don’t want to change too much, people like to see it as they remembered it. We will of course be bringing back karaoke at some point this summer.”
Hopefully, the new post COVID-19 normal will still include folks enjoying the nightlife scene at the Talkhouse, a tradition that has spanned a couple of generations. A friend of mine, John Heisig, who recently passed away in his mid-nineties, used to say, “I still have to stop by the Talkhouse and take a peek!” Now, once again, we all can.
Stephen Talkhouse is located at 161 Main Street in Amagansett. For more information, visit stephentalkhouse.com.