BY EVERYNIGHT CHARLEY CRESPO | Jesse Malin, Kelsey Lu, Rhett Miller, Willie Nile and James Maddock were among the musicians who helped unlock the doors of long-shuttered New York City music venues this past weekend.
The Bowery Electric reopened on April 2 and 3 with four sold-out concerts by Jesse Malin. The Shed opened on April 2 with a sold-out concert by Kelsey Lu. City Winery NY reopened on April 3 with two concerts by Rhett Miller and on April 4 with two concerts by Willie Nile. This is only the start of a revival for New York City music venues.
New York State’s updated regulations allowed performing arts and entertainment venues, most of which have been closed since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak last March, to reopen at 33 percent capacity on April 2. These venues can host up to 100 people indoors or up to 200 people outdoors. If the venues require all attendees to present proof of completed vaccination or a recent negative test result prior to entry, then the capacity can increase to 150 people indoors or 500 people outdoors. In each case, social distancing, face coverings, health screening and other health protocols will be required by all attendees, along with other Department of Health protocols.
“New York’s beloved arts and entertainment venues have been hard hit by the public health guidance we’ve implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19, and after a long and difficult period, I am glad to see them reopen their doors to New Yorkers,” Governor Cuomo said on April 2. “Attendees will need to follow strict guidance to keep themselves and others safe, but they’ll now be able to watch world-class performances and take part in our state’s thriving arts and culture scene once again.”
The look of concerts has changed radically in order to provide safer environments. Venues can no longer have standing room; all patrons must be seated, and not at the bar. Venues will not assign unaffiliated customers to the same table. Venues that serve alcoholic drinks will require that one person at a table also order food. The state published its guidelines in a 30-page document.
The Bowery Electric
The Bowery Electric adapted to state regulations by converting its dance floor into a dining room. The purchase of tickets equates to a reservation at a socially-distanced and partitioned table seating. Ticket holders must agree to temperature checks and contact tracing upon entry and then throughout the night wear masks when not seated at their table. Social distancing must be maintained between customers, the performers and other guests. The staff will clear and sanitize the main room between early and late shows.
The Bowery Electric will continue its music schedule on April 16 with two nights of a David Peel 420 memorial celebration and two nights of a Walter Lure memorial celebration. These will be followed by concerts by musicians with local followings. These acts include EverLectric, Jack West and SUSU in April. Tickets are available through the Bowery Electric Web site. In addition to the ticket charge, patrons should expect a $15 per-person food and beverage minimum. The Bowery Electric will offer discounts to all guests who can provide proof of full vaccination two weeks after the final dose or a negative COVID test result taken within three days of the show.
The Shed became a vastly distanced auditorium for its reopening thanks to a flexible seating arrangement in its 18,000-square-foot McCourt space. All ticket holders had to present confirmation of either a negative COVID-19 PCR/NAAT test taken within 72 hours of the event start time, a COVID-19 antigen “rapid” test within six hours of the event start time or confirmation of having completed the COVID-19 vaccination series at least 14 days prior to the date of the event. Patrons also had to agree to take a temperature check, complete a COVID-19 health questionnaire, participate in contact tracing, wear face coverings and remain seated except for entry and exit. Ticket scanning was contactless, and entry and exit was timed. The audience sat in single and paired seats, socially distanced from other audience members. The performance had no intermission, coat check, food or drink concessions or merchandise sales. Forthcoming performances by members of the New York Philharmonic, Renee Fleming and Michelle Wolf are sold out.
City Winery NY
City Winery NY now sells tickets for all performances as unique table groupings of two to six. Single parties may purchase balcony tickets only. All ticket holders must agree to a temperature check upon arrival. The venue recommends that guests expedite their entrance by downloading the CLEAR app and completing the questionnaire prior to arrival, bypassing the in-person health screening. All other guests will complete a wellness questionnaire prior to entering the venue. All guests must wear a face covering when entering and moving throughout public areas. Face coverings may be removed upon seating. At table, patrons can use contactless ordering and payment for food and drinks.
City Winery NY will benefit from the relaxation of travel restrictions. Starting April 2, domestic travelers do not have to quarantine for 14 days upon crossing the New York State line. Rufus Wainwright, Patti Smith, Joseph Arthur, James Maddock, Steve Earle, Stephin Merritt, Raul Malo, Jorma Kaukonen, Martin Sexton, Stephen Kellogg and the Southside Johnny Trio are among the artists who will perform in April. Because of the current limit of 100 tickets per show, many shows sell out quickly upon announcement.
Smaller clubs with a new capacity of under 100 customers are booking New York area-based musicians with strong followings. The Bitter End, where the capacity was reduced from 230 to 60 customers, will reopen on April 9 and 10 and will showcase performances by JudyAnne Jackson, Jess McAvoy, Fawn and Stella Blue’s Band. Dave Fields, Light Warriors, Rami Feinstein, the Pepper Solana Band, the Oz Noy Trio, Ava Monroe, Shepard and Breeze, Edwin Vazquez and Val Kinzler are among the artists who will headline later in April.
DrömNYC will return to dinner theater-styled concerts on April 22, 24 and 25 with Halil Sezai.
In Brooklyn, Skinny Dennis reopened on April 3 with the Ugly Mountain Boys and on April 4 with the Dust Devil Jass Band. Future shows there in April include performances by Sweet Megg, Low Roller, CC & the Boys, the Peanut Shells, Jackson Lynch, El Fina, Ham Rodeo and the Stardusters. The Sultan Room, also in Brooklyn, will reenter the live music circuit on April 21 with two shows by Native Sun and on April 28 with two shows by Jachary. These shows will take place in the Turk’s Inn rooftop.
More venues will make reopening announcements soon.
For more of Everynight Charley Crespo’s coverage of New York City’s live-music scene, check out his blog, The Manhattan Beat.