Venues Retrench or Retreat as Covid Resurges
Live music is on a yo-yo string as Covid attacks, yet again. Outdoor venues hang on while indoor venues deal with mask mandates, postpone booking or close. San Francisco has made showing proof of vaccination a requirement, as have other Bay Area communities, but even venues that haven’t been ordered to do so are requiring proof. Some, like Zeitgeist at Valencia and Duboce in SF, want to see proof of vaccination and picture ID to assure there is a match. Others, like the Make-Out Room and Amado’s, don’t cross-check IDs, and still other’s like Gestalt check at the bar not at the door.
It all comes down to maintaining customer confidence, but now that we know fully vaccinated people can be carriers, confidence is on the wane for customers and clubs. Club Deluxe on Haight Street reopened and presented live music throughout July, then shut it all down in August. Blondie’s Bar, the Rite-Spot and Lucky Horseshoe stumbled through the pandemic with their curbside parklets, though Blondie’s didn’t present bands in their parklet. They gave one indoor performance a shot in July, but that was it. True, everyone has to play the cards they’re dealt, but music in a parklet during daylight hours with less than ideal seating doesn’t appeal to many.
Dance venues, like Local Edition, Verdi Club, Cat’s Corner, Le Colonial and the Terrace Room in Oakland, are holding off because, well, who wants to dance with a dozen or so different partners during a pandemic? Traditional outdoor summer events at Stern Grove, Yerba Buena Gardens, and the Warehouse in Port Costa have managed, but People in Plazas, which has held noontime summer concerts in and around the Financial District for decades, skipped 2021.
An interesting summer alliance has been forged by the Ivy Room in Albany, Fireside Lounge in Alameda and the City of Alameda which has converted a downtown parking lot into the “Alfresco Dining Park” pictured at the top of this article. Another upside is that SF’s parklets appear to be here to stay, and while they may not be particularly suited to music, their increased capacity provides restaurants and bars a godsend.
Amnesia is perhaps the saddest case. The club had been slated for changes before 2020, it closed throughout the pandemic and remains closed to this day. A parklet has been built, though never used, the main door has been covered with plywood and the entire front has been appropriately painted over in funeral black. Inside, the stage has been torn out, which all but guarantees that music is out of Amnesia’s future. The sign has been taken down, so a name change is likely to accompany its rebirth as a craft beer bar.
Such is the state of live music on Covid’s yo-yo string.