Bay Area performance venues are moving hesitantly but optimistically toward scheduling live shows later this year, after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that checking vaccination cards will allow venues to open without capacity limits starting in mid-June.
It's not for certain that nothing will go wrong between now and June, and restaurant owners across the state have become accustomed to disappointment and expecting the worst. As Oasis owner D'Arcy Drollinger tells the Chronicle this week, "I’ve learned not to get too attached to plans."
But still, plans are being made with the hope that Newsom's optimistic April 6 pronouncement — that June 15 will be the day that live shows get to happen without major restriction, but with masks on and assigned seating preferred — ends up coming true.
"Who knows, June 14, they could announce there’s three new strains of COVID," says Richard Sarvate of Tenderloin comedy spot The Setup, speaking the Chronicle.
As of Thursday, April 15, as officials announced last week, San Francisco is allowing venues including the Chase Center to reopen at 35% capacity with proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test required for attendees.
Another Planet Entertainment, which manages the Fox Theater in Oakland, The Independent in SF, and Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, is moving cautiously ahead with the idea that August will probably feel safe enough for people start attending shows again. The Fox currently has a number of rescheduled tour dates from last year on its calendar, including LP on September 11, and Jungle on October 26. Meanwhile, the Independent has a couple of things currently scheduled for June, including a rescheduled March 2020 Flora Cash show. All of these dates may still change or get canceled.
Sarah Fink Dempsey, spokesperson for Another Planet, tells the Chronicle that local promoters were "incredibly encouraged" by Newsom's announcement and they "can’t wait to bring back artists and audiences at our theaters once again to enjoy the sound of music live and in person" — but the company is still officially aiming for "sometime in August" for getting back to normal.
San Francisco Symphony CEO Mark C. Hanson tells the paper that it's still planning to reopen Davies Symphony Hall in September, saying that Newsom's announcement "doesn’t redirect or refocus our efforts, but it does reinforce our belief that [September] will be possible."
Last May, Berkeley Rep tried to cautiously schedule a late winter reopening for shows, but obviously that couldn't work. The theater has since announced a seven-show 2021-2022 season, including the delayed world premiere production of Swept Away, a new musical by the Avett Brothers and John Logan that had been scheduled for last spring. Berkeley Rep Managing Director Susie Medak tells the Chronicle that the theater will need "five to six months to [get] back up and running," adding, "You can’t just turn on the lights and expect everything to be working again."
Stay tuned as all these venues solidify dates over the coming months — or change their tunes once again if necessary.
Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Arts Commission