Cooper's easing of COVID-19 restrictions unlikely to bring back live music to many venues any time soon

Joel Brown Image
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Concert owners react to governor's ease of restrictions
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The new order will also allow some indoor businesses to open at 30% capacity with a cap of 250 people. These businesses include bars and taverns, indoor amusement parks, movie theaters, indoor sports arenas and others.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Indoor event spaces like downtown Raleigh's Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts center can reopen starting Friday with crowds up to 250 people -- that's a tough number to make money with. And, around the corner at Red Hat Amphitheater, larger crowds of concert-goers could be allowed inside. But it would be a struggle as well.

"I really think that today's announcement was a huge step in a positive direction," said Randy McKay, who recently took the reins as President and CEO of Durham's Carolina Theatre.

McKay took charge in the throes of a pandemic that's thrown the live music industry into a tailspin. COVID canceled the Carolina's movie house, its community events and its main money-making source: touring concert acts.

McKay says the governor's easing of restrictions for indoor venues which allows 30% capacity not exceeding 250 people is unlikely bring those tours back.

"The bread and butter, our concert programming, isn't going to be possible at any venue until the vast majority of the country is open at full capacity because it just doesn't make sense any other way," he said.

In downtown Raleigh, Sheraton Hotel General Manager Leon Cox, who is currently serving as chair of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance and Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors bureau.

Cox encouraged with recent upticks in hotel and convention meeting bookings. But, when we asked about Governor Roy Cooper's Wednesday announcement that outdoor entertainment venues, like Walnut Creek and Red Hat Amphitheaters could reopen at 30% capacity on Friday, Cox had doubts that popular Red Hat could afford to hire back staff and foot the bill for big acts with capacity still so limited.

"No, not yet," Cox said. "I think in order for those venues to be productive, the (capacities) have to be a little bit more."

However, Cox and McKay both see light at the end of the tunnel. Mckay points to the surge in sales for the Carolina's Nevermore Film Festival. The event is virtual this year, but he says tickets are selling as strongly as the in-person event.