Columbus venues plan for dwell music as COVID-19 instances wane


As coronavirus cases decline and more Ohioans get vaccinated, some independent music venues in Columbus are preparing to perform live again.

For those looking to relive the thrill of a personal concert for the first time in months, this is probably music to their ears. However, the organizers warn that – at least for the time being – the days full of houses and loud crowds are still a thing of the past.

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Since The nationwide curfew expired on February 11th, some smaller venues like Natalie’s Music Hall & Kitchen in Grandview Heights has already reintroduced live concerts with COVID-19 related restrictions. Others – including Ace of Cups near Ohio State University – will follow this month.

These security protocols include: restricted access, social distancing requirements, and table seating only – which means guests cannot congregate in front of the stage.

“I’m passionate about music like everyone else, but I firmly believe in the guidelines and guidelines,” said Conor Stratton, owner of Ace of Cups. “For me, we can’t speed things up.”

“A pent-up demand” for live music in Columbus amid COVID-19

This isn’t the first time live music has attempted a comeback since the coronavirus pandemic began about a year ago.

Last summer, Some smaller venues tried to hold sporadic concerts After May 14, the Dine Safe Ohio Order gave musicians and bands permission to perform in restaurants and bars that met social distancing requirements. In September promotion company Prime Social Group introduced the Westland Mall Drive-in Concert Series with local and national acts.

But none of these endeavors lasted long as colder weather negated outdoor concerts and COVID-19 cases occurred during the holiday season.

Natalie’s Music Hall & Kitchen and Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza in Worthington were among the venues that held some concerts over the summer. When the nationwide stay-at-home counseling and curfew went into effect in November, both locations resumed only catering and delivery services, with live music only being available online via streaming, said Charlie Jackson, who worked with daughter Natalie Jackson owns both venues.

Natalie's Music Hall & Kitchen in Grandview Heights

Live concerts last returned to Natalie’s Grandview Heights location on February 12, although the venue still broadcasts those shows online for people who prefer to watch from home, Jackson said. The Worthington location is expected to give concerts until March 17th. This is also the day Natalie’s is open for in-house restaurants and bar services at both locations.

Although the live streaming concerts were well received by music lovers, Jackson said nothing compares to the magic of witnessing gigs in person.

“I think there is a pent-up demand,” said Jackson. “Once it’s safe, people will come back strong.”

Make preparations, take measures for a comeback of live music

This is the hope of the event owners who are already planning live music in mid-March. Stratton, who recently took over the ownership of Ace of Cups, has done a series of renovations – drywall, fresh paint, refinished floors – of the concert hall and restaurant on North High Street in anticipation of the return of eager concertgoers.

Ace of Cups has been closed since the coronavirus pandemic began before reopening in the fall for some outdoor patio shows. These ended with the arrival of the cold weather, but now Stratton is planning to do so Hosted the first show on March 13th with the Columbus Garage Rock Trio Hydrone.

The venue has booked shows every weekend through April, though it only allows 40 people per show – well below its typical maximum capacity of 300 people, Stratton said. About eight feet will separate each table, and even the performers will be masked.

“We’re just as concerned about anything as anyone else so we don’t try to overload it,” said Stratton. “We just want to go ahead and see if it works.”

Although the nationwide curfew has been lifted, Stratton said the Ace of Cups will close by 11 p.m. or midnight at the latest.

“These are party times,” said Stratton. “I’m afraid that in this window of time when enough (alcohol) has been consumed, people will be sloppy by the rules and not that easy to handle.”

Not all venues are planning the return of big shows

Not all smaller venues are planning concerts anytime soon.

Rumba Cafe Summit Street will be closed at least until May, said Timothy Eddings, the venue’s booking agent.

The prospects for bigger shows will be even longer to return.

On Tuesday Gov. DeWine signed an addendum to its August capacity constraints ordinance for sporting events and entertainment venues that would allow them to have up to 25% capacity for indoor events and 30% capacity for outdoor events. The edict applies to stadiums, arenas, theaters and other entertainment venues.

But Scott Stienecker, the CEO of PromoWest Productions, does not plan to open the Express Live outdoor venue with less than 50% capacity. PromoWest’s remaining indoor venues – including Newport Music Hall and the A&R Music Bar – also have no date for resuming live concerts, Stienecker said.

In 2018, guests are waiting for a concert with country musician Cody Jinks on Express Live.

Stienecker’s tentative schedule for resuming outdoor concerts on Express Live is no earlier than July and no later than September, but that all depends on nationwide mandates, he said. Indoor shows could resume in the fall, he added.

“We don’t yet know whether this is realistic or not,” said Stienecker. “But I think once we’re able to do shows, people will be coming back in droves.”

Outdoor venues like Express Live and even the John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons are the most likely locations for major shows to be held this summer, said Bruce Garfield, executive director of the Columbus Music Commission. However, Garfield said it will be a long time before the national acts go back on tour.

In the meantime, the Music Commission has been working on the framework for a “Welcome Back” show when live music comes back into effect in the Columbus area. Although Garfield said the concept is in its early stages, he intends to involve the myriad organizations in Columbus that create all genres of music.

“The people of Columbus love music so much,” said Garfield. “People are thirsty out and see a show.”

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@ EricLagatta