Just a little over a week after the return of live performances to New York City, many venues still have blank calendars and empty stages.
“I think it’s going to be a slow process,” said Jean Ronald Vincent, owner and manager of Café 33 Bar and Lounge. The small Brooklyn venue, formerly known as 33 Lafayette Bar and Lounge, used to host live music during Havana Wednesdays and Roots Reggae Thursdays. Now, with indoor capacity at live venues limited to 33 percent, the business hosts private events and celebrations that adhere to the New York State COVID guidelines.
“I think the vendors, the venues are going to be there,” Vincent said. “But it’s going to require that you do a little bit more due diligence and preparations for social distancing.”
Café 33 isn’t the only venue that’s making a comeback slowly. Last month, shortly after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the return of ticketed indoor shows after a year’s hiatus, Bedford + Bowery reported that venues lIke Bowery Electric, City Winery, Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn Steel, and Gramercy Theatre were among the few that had scheduled shows in April and May. Since then, not many have joined the pack. According to the “in-person shows” listed on Oh My Rockness, additional venues Littlefield, Berlin, The Sultan Room, The Shed, Elsewhere, and the Bell House have scheduled shows for April and May. Venues with shows on the books later in the year include Knitting Factory Brooklyn, Bowery Ballroom, Avant Gardner, Webster Hall, Warsaw, Baby’s All Right, and Market Hotel.
According to the site, 29 shows were scheduled to be livestreamed on Friday, April 9, compared to just one in-person show– Patti Smith at City Winery.
While smaller venues make a slow return to indoor shows, larger venues like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center have yet to do the same, despite much anticipation.
Jordana Leigh, the Senior Director of Artistic Programming at Lincoln Center, said, “These announcements are being made fast and furiously. Every day, things change. We have not made any plans at this time for indoor programming.”
Instead, Lincoln Center’s reopening will focus on outdoor events and finding ways to share their 16.3 acres of space with the community. By creating more recreational spaces for its audience to enjoy, the storied venue is seeking to transform its outdoor environment into a place where individuals can “hang out” and “sit down and relax and enjoy being outside,” Leigh said.
Lincoln Center also hopes to connect with a broader audience by partnering with more cultural organizations such as the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, and the Korean Cultural Center New York. “For a long time I curated the Atrium space, and we really worked very hard to have our audience demographics actually reflective of the census demographics,” Leigh said. “You had a really nice range of diversity in ethnicity and race, in terms of our audience, and also in terms of age and peoples’ income. It really did reflect New York City, and we’re trying to figure out how to make that happen outside this year and in the future.”
The return of live performances at Lincoln Center will take place through Restart Stages, an outdoor performing arts venue. The first event — on April 7, World Health Day — featured members of the New York Philharmonic and was dedicated to healthcare workers. A more traditional schedule of performances will likely return in May.
Café 33 will also reopen in May, though a date hasn’t yet been set for the return of live music. Like many others, the bar and lounge has made some modifications to its menu and will reopen with a cafe element, selling coffee, pastries, and a few Haitian food items in a nod to the owner’s Haitian background.
Trans-Pecos, an avant music venue in Ridgewood, has also not yet indicated when it will return to live shows, but recently announced via social media that its “Covid patio beer garden,” added during the pandemic, would become a permanent fixture.
“Nothing bad about being a good hang spot,” Trans-Pecos wrote. “[It] can only help the turnout inside.”