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New York Concert Venues Can Reopen in April


Plays, concerts and other indoor performances can resume in the state of New York starting on April 2, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced at a news conference this afternoon.

There will, of course, be limitations. Venues will be allowed to open at 33% capacity with a limit of 100 people indoors (or 200 people outdoors), and all attendees will be required to wear masks and socially distance. If venues can verify that all attendees have tested negative for Covid-19 before entering, those limits would be increased to 150 people indoors or 500 people outdoors.

New York’s new regulations come amidst a wave of easements of restrictions in other states, including Texas and Mississippi, both of which yesterday announced that all businesses, including concert venues, could open at 100% capacity with no mask requirements.

The announcement came as New York is adding new coronavirus cases at one of the highest rates in the U.S. Both New York and neighboring New Jersey reported 38 new cases per 100,000 people over the past week while the nation as a whole is averaging 20 new cases per 100,000 people.

It’s also unclear whether many venues will choose to open with such restrictions in place. The economics of limited capacities, which include paying staff and performers, remain untenable for many venues. Live music spaces were among the recipients of $15 billion in federal stimulus money earmarked by the government in December, and many may opt to remain closed instead of operating at a loss.

“It doesn’t make financial sense for the Blue Note to open with only 66 seats for shows,” Steven Bensusan, the president of the Blue Note Entertainment Group, told the New York Times. Michael Swier, the owner of the Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge, said that social distancing requirements will effectively lower the 33% capacity limit to a number even less tenable, as low as 20%.

What’s more, with similar restrictions or more stringent restrictions in place in much of the country, it’s unclear when full-scale touring, which many venues rely on, will return, rendering the pipeline of talent to perform at these spaces questionable.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, previously suggested concerts could return some time in the coming fall, saying, “If everything goes right, this is will occur some time in the fall of 2021, so that by the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing onstage as well as people in the audience.” He added that that very much depends on the successful rollout of the vaccine, with a 70% level of inoculation necessary to achieve the desired level of herd immunity, and that a number of safety precautions will need to be in place when concerts to do come back, including mask-wearing and possible reduced capacity limits with social distancing.

Live Nation recently revealed that their concert revenue had plummeted 84.5% year over year from 2019 to 2020.

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