Toronto concert halls don’t think Stage 3 will help the live music scene
Live shows are allowed in Toronto again with the arrival of Stage 3 in all parts of Ontario, but don’t expect concerts to be like they were before the pandemic.
Concert halls, musicians and those who come to watch them now have to abide by a number of rules under the new Stage 3 statutes.
This includes mandatory plexiglass barriers between musicians and audience members and capping the number of people allowed in an indoor venue at a time to 50, regardless of the size of the space.
This is an obvious improvement over Stage 2, which banned live shows altogether.
But a number of the city’s concert halls say this current stage of the reopening plan is simply not working, with the new rules making it nearly impossible for musicians and concert goers to return.
Jeff Cohen, owner of the legendary Queen Street Horseshoe Tavern, says the company has never had to close like this in its 73-year history.
The ‘Shoe functions strictly as a bar with its front patio from Stage 2, and Cohen says the stage that has hosted artists like The Rolling Stones, Etta James and The Tragically Hip will have to remain closed until regulations relaxes.
“The [Stage 3] the model doesn’t work for the Horseshoe period, “Cohen said.” We can open our bar first, but we’ve decided to keep the concert hall closed. ”
“Frankly [with] with a cap capped at 50 our local performers can’t make any money, nor do we think watching them play like fish in an aquarium while sitting down promotes the magic of the Horseshoe Tavern â, a- he declared.
The sting of losing place after place in Toronto is nothing new to music lovers in the city, and the pandemic hasn’t helped ease the pain: Last month, Little Italy’s 25-year-old Orbit Room took off. permanently closed due to COVID-19 uncertainty.
The CECRA program has helped (having a reasonable owner is even more helpful), as have groups like Support Canadian Venues and the Canadian Coalition of Independent Theaters, who put pressure on the government for better aid to concert halls.
Toronto City Council’s new 50 percent business tax refund, which is expected to come into effect later this year, will also help off-load venue owners, Cohen says.
But with patio sales covering only about 5% of their income and around $ 40,000 a month in rent and property taxes, The ‘Shoe is unlikely to reopen until they can bring back at least 250 people. in the building at a time.
“We think it’s a good start for the much smaller venues in town, a bigger one like ours. [isn’t] likely to reopen later in the fall or next year. ”
With two floors, Houndstooth on College Street isn’t particularly small, but the space and rehearsal location was able to navigate Stage 3 relying more on its status as a bar and cafe.
âWith Stage 3, we don’t really have a plan to change things,â says co-owner Alex Gray. “We play it by ear all the time, hence the flow of the hours. We see how people are using the space.”
A new front patio that can accommodate up to 20 people helped the business get by, Gray says. Meanwhile, the bar’s lower level DIY space, which could accommodate intimate concerts before the pandemic, is still off-limits.
Although the bar’s downstairs is large enough to seat 50 people, Gray says he has no plans to host any shows inside yet.
“It’s hard for me. I don’t want to spend my money on things we’re going to throw away. It’s a bummer to think of putting a giant piece of plexiglass between the playing band and the audience,” he said. . .
But there is potential for innovation: Gray says he’s playing with the ability to stream DIY room performances to an outdoor screen, or to stream DJ sets to the outdoor patio.
While the evidence abroad (namely Test concert by English singer Frank Turner in London with physical distancing measures in place) show that the pandemic plan for live performances is simply not viable for a good performance, concert halls in Toronto are doing what they can to stay afloat, like always.