Prohibition Years: During the years of federally mandated national abstinence—from 1918 to 1934—the Shanghai was out of the liquor business like every other bar in the country. Presumably, the restaurant continued to serve food during these years.
The Last Quarter of the 20th Century: Just about every resident who is a native of Auburn has fond memories of the Shanghai. It was a center of entertainment frequented by people of all economic backgrounds, from lawyers and judges to tradespeople. It was a place for everyone to celebrate, drown their sorrows and to just hang out. It was the quintessential nightspot for enjoying dancing to live music. It was a favorite watering hole for both motorcycle clubs and tourists alike.
The Shanghai was famous for hosting an annual Fourth of July celebration, complete with greased pole for climbing competitions for children, and it organized an annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, typically short but fun. It seems that the Shanghai was always a great place to meet or end the evening.
November 13, 1994: Wilbert Jung Yue, eldest son of Shanghai founder Charlie Yue, dies at age 90. He held title to the American Block building, and ownership passed to his son, Mervin.
1995: The Disney movie company descends on the Plaza to film the movie “Phenomenon,” starring John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker and Robert Duvall. The Old Town Plaza is transformed into a movie set and the Shanghai is temporarily converted into a new watering hole called the Elkhorn bar. Travolta plays George Malley who is struck by a mysterious light, touching off an incredible facility to learn quickly. He uses his new powers for good; ultimately, it is revealed that the source of his new powers result from an inoperable brain tumor. Bummer.
July 3, 1996: Phenomenon is released and grosses more than $200 million internationally. The movie premieres the same day at the now-closed Auburn Cinema on Rt. 49.
March, 1999: The Shanghai Restaurant & Bar is named “Business of the Year” by the Auburn Chamber of Commerce.