Under new state guidelines, large gatherings, including concerts, are allowed to resume starting June 1.
That includes concert venues, which can operate at 25% of the venue’s rated capacity, but no more than 3,000 people.
Concerts could start happening soon, but it’s unclear if they will.
When contacted after Gov. Pete Ricketts’ announcement, venue operators were still contemplating the news and unsure how the guidelines would affect them.
Many have cleared their calendars as touring artists have postponed or canceled their tours. Local concert series such as Jazz on the Green and events such as the City of Omaha Celebrates America concert at Memorial Park have already canceled.
When reached by a reporter, owners of The Waiting Room Lounge, Reverb Lounge and Slowdown were evaluating the new rules and how it would affect their decisions to reopen.
Bars and venues will be allowed to reopen under the same rules that apply to restaurants, including 6 feet of space between tables and no more than six people at a table. Entertainers will have to be 6 feet away from patrons.
Before Ricketts’ announcement, concert venues were already contemplating a return to business.
Slowdown is hosting live-streamed concerts this weekend featuring local bands.
Slowdown, The Waiting Room, Reverb Lounge, O’Leaver’s and The Sydney, as well as Bodega’s Alley and Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln, have joined the National Independent Venue Association, which is advocating for the support of concert venues that are shut down.
Omaha Performing Arts, which operates the Holland Performing Arts Center and Orpheum Theater, was also evaluating their policies and consulting with others in the concert industry, as well as health professionals, said Joan Squires, the organization’s president.
“We have just learned of the governor’s directives and are reviewing them. O-pa has been developing reopening plans and protocols that will ensure the safety of our patrons, artists, staff and volunteers. There are many factors to consider,” Squires said in a statement.
The new rules will affect arena venues such as the CHI Health Center differently.
Since March, all concerts at the arena have been postponed or canceled. Only three entertainment events — two concerts and a WWE event — are scheduled for August and September.
“It’s hard to know what community standards are going to look like at that time,” said Kristyna Engdahl, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, which runs the arena.
Even if events could be held there, arena concerts are typically much larger than the 3,000 person cap allowed by the new guidelines. And it might not be economically feasible for a touring band to play an arena and sell so few tickets.
In the past few days, five concerts have been postponed or canceled.
“Many promoters are looking as far out as 2021,” Engdahl said.
Arena officials are examining social distancing parameters including protocols for cleaning the arena and possible capacity restrictions. The 3,000 person limit will give them something to examine.
“We’ll take this opportunity to look at what that would look like … 3,000 people with proper social distancing procedures,” Engdahl said.