Live Performances

Live Entertainment, Events Now Permitted … But Few Shows to Be Seen

NBC Universal, Inc.

Musicians, theatre buffs and others got excited a few weeks back when the state announced that live theater, concerts and other events could, with restrictions, resume April 15.

Fans walking by Petco Park's Park in the Park on Wednesday probably thought they were getting a taste of things to come, with South Bay's P.O.D. getting heavy all afternoon through three sets. Sadly, though, the appearance was a live stream event and not open to the public. The closest anybody got was the fence along J Street.

P.O.D. were spotted playing at the Park in the Park on Wednesday, but the show was not open to the public.
NBC 7
P.O.D. were spotted playing at the Park in the Park on Wednesday, but the show was not open to the public.

On Thursday, when the big day arrived, widespread live-performance reopening in San Diego failed to materialize. Why?

NBC 7 polled a group of local club owners, and for the most part they agreed that the reopening guidelines were simply too restrictive to be cost-effective. So what is allowed?

Orange Tier: Indoor Seated Live Events

  • Smaller venues: 15% capacity limit
  • Larger venues: 10% capacity limit
  • 25% if all guests are vaccinated or tested
  • In-state visitors only
  • All tickets delivered digitally, advanced purchase only
  • Pre-designated eating area (no eating/drinking allowed in seats) – 6 feet of distance.
  • Suites 35% capacity, max three households

Orange Tier: Outdoor Live Events

  • Max 33%, includes suites with 25% occupancy per suite
  • In-state visitors only
  • Max 67% if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination

Yellow Tier: Indoor Seated Live Events

  • Smaller Venues: Maximum of 25% or 300 people
  • 50% of capacity if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination
  • In-state visitors only
  • All tickets delivered digitally, advanced purchase only
  • Pre-designated eating area (no eating/drinking allowed in seats) – 6 feet of distance
  • Suites 25% capacity, max three households

Yellow Tier: Outdoor Live Events

  • Max 67%, includes suites with 25% occupancy per suite
  • Outdoor private event: Max 100 people
  • In-state visitors only
  • Primarily in-seat concessions (no concourse sales)

A quick look around San Diego club websites yields little evidence of live music, though some shows are popping up. There's a weekly outdoor show at the Meshuggah Shack in Mission Hills on Sunday afternoons, for example, and, up in Oceanside, the Pourhouse is hosted the Surrealistics Thursday night ($15!). Still, nothing is happening at the Casbah (which recently reopened for dining, but not in the main room), Soda Bar, the Belly Up, or the Music Box. And if you were wondering about concerts, things are moving very slowly locally. Live Nation, which operates Viejas Arena at SDSU and the amphitheater in South Bay, as well as the Observatory in North Park and the House of Blues, has nothing on the books for April.

After a 13-month closure, the Casbah's principal owner Tim Mays, -- who also has the Starlite restaurant and Krakatoa cafe in his portfolio -- took NBC 7 on a quick walkthrough of the iconic Kettner Boulevard club ahead of its reopening Friday night.

Things might be opening faster for other performing arts, but it doesn't seem likely. Theatres, too, have to pay operating and labor costs, as well as licensing fees for playwrights. A quick online check of San Deigo theatres revealed another quiet landscape. Dance troupes may be best positioned for the resumption of live performances, since their operating costs are likely slimmer and, possibly, music and other licensing fees might be nonexistent if they were to stage original content. However, no performances were easily found on the websites of local operators.

Of course, all of these restrictions go away June 15 if California Gov. Gavin Newsom fully reopens the state, as he said he would if the state continued trending toward decreased virus cases and more vaccines administered. That decision is dependent, however, upon enough vaccine supply and keeping hospitalization rates low and stable.

While most capacity limits would be lifted, large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, will be allowed only with testing or vaccination verification requirements, California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly said in early April.

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