Updated on 10 p.m., April 7. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday that the state will fully reopen its economy on June 15 if hospitalization rates remain stable—and low—and people continue to get vaccinated. Beyond that, the only continued requirement would be mask-wearing.
This means that indoor concerts can resume at full capacity on or after that date. On April 2, Newsom announced that partially attended concerts could begin on April 15. However, many concert promoters say they won’t be able to resume concerts until the late summer, for a variety of reasons.
“We are grateful that the governor is mindful that businesses need to reopen to survive,” said David M. Mayeri, founder and CEO of the Berkeley Music Group, which operates The UC Theatre, adding that the venue’s normal operations won’t resume until late August or September. That’s when the venue was originally hoping to reopen. “There are 40 shows booked and ready, but not on-sale yet, from September to December. They will likely go on sale in July.”
Mayeri said the performers and their management have to sign off on the dates before they will go on sale. Additionally, he said he would like to see vaccinations continue to increase, as well as consumer confidence that people are ready to go to shows again.
“All sectors listed in the current Blueprint Activities and Business Tiers Chart may return to usual operations in compliance with Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards and other statewide agency guidelines and standards with limited public health restrictions, such as masking, testing or vaccination verification requirements for large-scale, higher-risk events,” said Dale Schornack, a spokesman with the California Department of Public Health, in an email to RIFF.
Additionally, because of a public health order, all attendees will need to verify vaccination status or show a negative COVID-19 test result, international attendees will need to verify complete vaccination, and large indoor events will be capped at 5,000 until Oct. 1.
Mayeri said it wasn’t anything Gov. Newsom said that triggered his venue’s September timeline, but President Joe Biden’s announcement more than six weeks ago, promising vaccination availability for everyone 16 and older by the spring.
As a member of the board of the fundraising arm of the National Independent Venue Association, the one-year-old concert industry group, he said he participates in at least two weekly meetings with venue operators nationwide to coordinate plans, which include the issue of how to handle all-ages concerts, since children are not yet able to become vaccinated.
Mayeri stressed that venue operators have experience keeping large groups of people safe. That’s a sentiment shared by Alex Popov, owner of the Cornerstone in Berkeley.
“We’re ready to go, no more evidence needed,” Popov said. “We are targeting our first show [on] Friday, June 18, likely without cap limits … unless something radically changes. … We will follow whatever protocols are mandated by the government to reopen for live music.”
Many concert venues will need several months to build up their calendars of touring artists, some of which have pushed back touring to 2022.
Jim Yeager, president of Breakwhitelight and spokesman for Live Nation, the largest music promoter in the U.S., declined to comment when asked about Live Nation’s return-to-business concert plans.
“Events will require regular capacity to really function,” a Live Nation spokesperson told the Mercury News on Friday, in reference to the state’s April 15 capacity-limited reopening plans.
Lynn Schwarz, co-owner and booker of Bottom of the Hill, said she won’t be able to ramp her club up to anything resembling business as usual until mid-August.
“It is encouraging to think that shows could open without capacity restrictions as early as mid-June for other venues, and it’s a real step toward normalcy. However, to make it worthwhile for us to come out of our hibernation, as a medium-sized rock venue that relies on its touring bands to make its money, we need touring bands on the schedule, and we do not have time to build that up for June at all,” she said. “We will probably use early or mid-August as a reopening date, as we were counting on before this announcement. That way we have time to work on finding locals to fill our dates once we choose an opening date.”
Schwarz is also crossing her fingers that by that point, her club receives its promised government grants in order to upgrade the club per safety protocols.
“We need to clean top to bottom, get our sound system into shape, rehire staff to book and promote shows, buy PPE, upgrade our ventilation, upgrade our POS system, install plexiglass, start paying for all the bills that got cut off, and repurchase all our inventory, including liquor and food,” she said. “As of now, the grants applications on the federal and city level have not even been distributed, much less the funds dispersed! Still crickets from the state grants for most venues.”
She added that despite the general positivity of Newsom’s announcement, she feels a lot of trepidation about gathering so closely with many other people, even if everyone is vaccinated.
Newsom said California officials will continue to track hospitalization and vaccination rates, and he did not rule out pushing the June 15 date back if missteps are made.
“It will be back to business as usual,” said Newsom, adding that the full reopening would mean that the state removes its color-coded tiers and “dimmer switch” between them.
“We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic,” Newsom said.
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.