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‘We’re losing shows, every day’: concert halls ask state for advice on long-term reopening plans

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With COVID risk levels often changing, entertainment venues and festivals are struggling to plan for summer.

PORTLAND, Oregon Watching a video of an outdoor concert can make you feel like you’re watching something 10 years ago. But as more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, concert halls are trying to plan how to bring back live and outdoor events. Many feel they are doing it without state guidance.

There’s none of that, so right now we’re losing shows, every day, said Beau Eastes, director of marketing for the Schwab Amphitheater in Bend. People say: We’re going to go around Oregon because we don’t know what the parameters will be.

The amphitheater was one of some 50 theaters and music festivals that signed a letter to Governor Kate Brown last month. He detailed a proposed plan for reopening outdoor concert halls this summer. They asked the state to allow 100% capacity at outdoor sites, but not until a month after counties hit low-risk levels and everyone has access to the vaccine. Last week, concert hall representatives met with the governor’s office and public health officials. Eastes said it was unproductive.

What we came out of that meeting was that the state didn’t really feel like it could predict more than two weeks in advance, Eastes said. I understand it’s difficult, but these shows don’t happen overnight.

Eastes said without state guidance they had not been able to book new shows for this year. The five shows they lined up for the end of the summer are all rollovers from 2020.

The reason venues need government guidance, clarity, and direction is that it takes us months to prepare for a show; we need to book the show we need to promote, said Amanda Stark, executive director of The concert hall of the old church in Portland.

Although his is a very different place than an amphitheater, Stark believes they share the same concerns about long-range planning without real-time guidance.

Which member of the audience wants to walk into a place that doesn’t have a plan?

In response, Governor Brown’s office issued a statement. Part of it read: “In an effort to support venue operators, we recently expanded the outdoor entertainment capacity by removing hard caps and moving to a percentage-based limit, and we’re currently reviewing if a similar expansion for indoor entertainment could also work, wrote Charles Boyle, deputy director of communications at Browns. Although the number of cases has steadily declined in recent weeks, last week showed that the number of cases may again increase statewide and we must still remain cautious, especially as we are also evaluating the spread of new, more contagious variants. “

McMenamins also signed the letter to the governor. In a statement, McMenemens Music Director Jimi Biron said in part: “The lack of guidance is having a detrimental impact not only on the venues and local communities where concerts are held, but also on the bands, the agents. , production crews and many others Oregonians who rely on the state’s various summer concerts for their livelihood.

Back in Bend, Beau Eastes is just hoping for something to help them save a summer that feels lost before it even arrives.

We’re not going to do this unless we can do it safely, Eastes said. Let’s make a plan.

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