When the COVID-19 pandemic began, performance venues and live performances were at a standstill. Even as restrictions have started to lift and states have started to allow gatherings, the health risks of live events remain a major concern.
Once the city of Chicago made it possible for outdoor events to be held, Adam Weiss and his team began work on the Lakeshore Drive-In event series, which provides safe entertainment for those in need. crave after months of home orders.
Weiss is the co-founder of Lakeshore Drive-In and AudisBliss, the parent company of event venues. He said the group has been working on developing a plan of security measures for attendants, staff and suppliers. Weiss, who got his start in producing events in college, missed out on shows and was elated when the plan was approved by Chicago. Since the events are all drive-ins, contact with others remains limited.
Lakeshores’ plan limits the vehicle’s capacity to 6 people and allows them to socialize only with people in their car in the 12-by-8-foot box that surrounds their car. There are also security personnel scattered around the tracks to make sure people are following social distancing guidelines. Vendors are accessible through apps, with food delivered to vehicles.
Starting in July, Lakeshore hosted a variety of concerts and special events, including performances by rapper Lil Yachty and band Mt. Joy, as well as an advanced screening of an episode of HBOs Lovecraft Country. These events will continue until the end of October when the weather permits. Several of these events sold out and Weiss said he noticed there was always great enthusiasm among the attendees.
Over the course of the events, Weiss said people have unfortunately become more negligent in following social distancing protocols. More people need to be reminded to continue to wear masks and stay away. However, he said very few people had been evicted from the premises for not following the guidelines.
Tionna Van Gundy, owner of Fueled Events, noticed a similar pattern during her company’s CHI-Together events. When events picked up in the summer it was much easier to get people to follow their rules, but now the places have opened up with more lenient policies.
There is still an ongoing pandemic, Van Gundy said. We still have to follow these policies and procedures. Nothing changed on our side, we were still doing everything we need to do. I think people are a little more carefree.
Like Lakeshore, CHI-Together has provided drive-thru entertainment throughout the summer. Van Gundy said the events were born out of an increased demand for entertainment and a desire to keep their workers employed. Participants in CHI-Together shows have an 8 foot by 8 foot area around their cars to congregate with other members of their group.
With events held at Soldier Field, CHI-Together was able to accommodate approximately 200 vehicles at each event. From July to mid-September, the regular series featured films five nights a week with a variety of genres ranging from Kung Fu Panda to Big Lebowski, creating events for all ages. Concerts took place before each screening. Private events at Soldier Field will be held until mid-November.
On the other end of the spectrum, Constellation Chicago has been holding concerts indoors since Illinois began allowing gatherings of less than 50 people. Constellation’s Margaret McCarthy said the venue’s capacity was limited to 46 people, but having the larger space allowed them to socially outrun the people inside. No more than two people are allowed at a table and the bar is closed to prevent people from moving too much.
With such limited capacity, Constellation is also offering live broadcasts of their shows for the very first time. As a dedicated jazz music venue, Constellation has an international audience and McCarthy said the pandemic has allowed this following to get even stronger.
We had to create a live streaming system, but now that we have it, we are doing it forever, McCarthy said. Some people don’t want to go out. Some artists don’t want audience members and let them choose whether or not they do.
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