A new wrinkle in the state’s coronavirus guidelines for bars, restaurants and similar venues in New York state prohibits them from offering live music that customers pay for separately. It seems to have suddenly popped up in the rules this week.
It means no events where patrons buy tickets to see a performance. It also appears to ban events with cover charges. And it prohibits venues from advertising live entertainment.
The rule, posted in Q&A format on the State Liquor Authority web site, does allow what it calls “incidental” live music at venues that have permits for that.
“This means that advertised and/or ticketed shows are not permissible,” the SLA guidelines say. “Music should be incidental to the dining experience and not the draw itself.”
Many bars, restaurants and venues that had begun scheduling such events in recent weeks were taken by surprise. News of the new rules made the rounds among musicians and venue operators Tuesday.
“This is devastating,” said Julie Leone, co-owner of The 443 Social Club & Lounge on Burnet Avenue in Syracuse. The 443 had only reopened in the past few weeks. “This effectively shuts me down again.”
People in the entertainment industry say it’s especially frustrating because it seemed to come out of nowhere.
“It’s absolutely cruel,” said Syracuse musician Colin Aberdeen, who has only recently started playing live gigs again. “They’ve been dangling the idea that these venues can reopen, and then, arbitrarily and randomly they take it away. I mean I’m all for safety protocols, but they have to make sense. Why would they do this?”
Aberdeen and his band Los Blancos recently played a Sunday night gig at The 443, and had plans for more. Those are now cancelled. The 443 is a full-service bar and restaurant, but its business model depends on live music as the attraction.
But many bars and venues depend on special music events, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, to help pay the bills.
Leone said she’s going ahead with a non-ticketed event tonight featuring artist Peg Newell. After that ends, she’s turning the lights off.
That means a scheduled Aug. 22 show featuring national touring musician Griffin House is off. It was a ticketed event.
Leone said she spoke to a State Liquor Authority enforcement officer Tuesday, and was told the agency could automatically suspend the liquor licenses for any venues found to be advertising shows. That seems to be different from regular enforcement, in which officers physically visit the venues to verify non-compliance.
She’s spending this morning wiping any references to shows off her social media sites.
“We put a lot of time, effort and money into reopening,” Leone said. “We put in social distancing, we do temperature checks that many places don’t, we rearranged the seating. And we got open. And now this. It’s just incredibly frustrating.”
Leone had also just placed a big food and beer order that came in Tuesday.
Cuomo and other state officials have said the rules are intended to keep people from mingling for prolonged periods to help contain the spread of the virus
Here’s the new language on live music from the SLA web site (”manufacturers” refers to winery and brewery taprooms etc.):
Q: Can I have live entertainment or a DJ in my indoor or outdoor dining area?
A: Restaurants and other on premises food and beverage establishments that have a license through the SLA are only allowed to offer on-premise music if their license certificate specifically allows for such activity (i.e., live music, DJ, recorded, etc.). A manufacturer that has an on premises license also must assure that its on premises license certificate specifically allows for the type of music it is offering. A manufacturer without a separate on premises license may offer music unless its license certificate specifically prohibits such music.
If offering music, indoors or out, all relevant aspects of the respective Department of Health guidance dining must be followed, e.g., patrons should not be standing except for necessary reasons (e.g., restroom, entering/exiting), standing patrons should wear face coverings, etc. Performers should be at least 12 feet from patrons.
All other forms of live entertainment, such as exotic dancing, comedy shows, etc., are not permissible currently regardless of phase.
Additionally, please note that only incidental music is permissible at this time. This means that advertised and/or ticketed shows are not permissible. Music should be incidental to the dining experience and not the draw itself.