“It’s really difficult not to get emotional”: Smoky’s Club closing after 69 years

Published: Dec. 12, 2021 at 5:30 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - After nearly 69 years, a Madison mainstay will be no longer. Smoky’s Club will close for good at the end of February making way for a new apartment complex.

Co-owner and son of Smoky’s namesake Tom Schmock says the labor shortage and rising cost of food, as well as complications in family life contributed to the decision to close. It will be hard to say goodbye, he says, but now is the right time.

“It’s really difficult not to get emotional,” said Schmock. “We grew up in the business, this is our home. We didn’t have a normal childhood, family situation. everything was based around the business. It was great. It set our family up.”

Schmock’s parents opened the original Smoky’s in the 1950s, not far from where the current location is. The expansion of University Avenue in 1968 forced them to move down the street. Despite managing Smoky’s himself for many years, Schmock credits his parents for the supper club’s longstanding success.

“My mother was amazing at training the staff,” he remembered.

“She would check all the meat coming in, made the soups, dressing and taught me a lot of that, too. All the credit for this place being so successful is certainly due to my mother and father being at the bar every night and holing court every night at 4 o’clock was just amazing. "

Schmock says Smoky’s allowed him and his brother Larry to start businesses of their own -- including Madison-favorite Blue Moon Bar and Grill.

Smoky’s will close at the end of February, but Schmock says the restaurant’s DNA will live on. His nephews are opening a restaurant in Mt. Horeb and many of the kitschy artifacts from Smoky’s will be incorporated there.

“At the end of the day it’s just a building,” he said. “Smoksy is the business, and that aspect is finding its way in the next restaurant that Matt and Tim will be running. The day will come when the same thing happens to the Blue Moon. Nobody lives forever, no business lasts forever. But enjoy it while you can.”

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