El Rio bar in the Mission of SF on April 10. El Rio reopened on April 1 for outdoor events and will wait for coronavirus case numbers to drop until hosting indoor events. (Sean Watkins / Golden Gate Xpress) (Sean Watkins)
El Rio bar in the Mission of SF on April 10. El Rio reopened on April 1 for outdoor events and will wait for coronavirus case numbers to drop until hosting indoor events. (Sean Watkins / Golden Gate Xpress)

Sean Watkins

Indoor concerts in California allowed to open April 15

Although California will significantly lift restrictions on live events and indoor concerts starting April 15, many venues are not prepared to open just yet

April 15, 2021

Indoor concert venues in San Francisco have long been awaiting the day when they can open their doors and continue their pre-pandemic operations of booking live shows. Starting April 15, California will allow them to do just that, under capacity regulations set in place.

Concerts, live gatherings and professional sports games are among the events that the public has been deprived of for more than a year now due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. However, the process of reopening will be difficult for venues that have not been operating during the pandemic.

Dana Smith, talent buyer for entertainment venue Amado’s on Valencia Street, said her venue will not be reopening for indoor concerts as soon as the restriction is uplifted.

“We will not be ready by that date,” Smith said. “There is a lot to do to get the venue ready in order for that to happen, plus, most venues need lead time to book and promote a show properly.”

Music venues, such as El Rio on Mission Street, are expecting a high demand for booking gigs and are being forced to adjust to changes in infrastructure due to being shut down for such a long period of time.

“We are getting a lot of requests and have been since we reopened last week, I’m sure most venues are,” said Lynne Angel, general manager of El Rio. “Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time, money and pre-planning to come out of a forced hibernation period. Our infrastructure is entirely different now and we are slowly rebuilding from a year of extreme loss.”

California’s county risk levels are divided into four tiers; purple for widespread, red for substantial, orange for moderate and yellow for minimal. As of April 6, San Francisco has been in the orange tier.

The Blueprint for a Safer Economy provided data for capacity for activity and business tiers. Indoor concert venues may hold up to 25% capacity in the orange tier. All tickets must be purchased and delivered digitally. For private events in the orange tier, all guests must get tested or show proof of vaccination with a maximum capacity of 150 people.

It would not be worthwhile to come out of the financial hibernation we are in for anything less than opening at full capacity. We are fragile enough as is after being closed for over a year.”

— Lynn Schwartz

Various venues in the city may not be able to operate under capacity regulations. Lynn Schwarz, part owner for the Bottom of the Hill on 17th Street in Potrero Hill, discussed the issues revolving around the restrictions set in place for reopening.

“For a venue our size, that would mean that we could only have roughly 40 paying customers after staff, band and crew,” Schwarz said. “It would not be worthwhile to come out of the financial hibernation we are in for anything less than opening at full capacity. We are fragile enough as is after being closed for over a year.”

As tiers lower, the restrictions for capacity limits will follow, which would show progress as vaccines continue to be dispersed. Wearing masks and continuing social distancing are still heavily encouraged in the state of California.

Although concert venues may have received some type of federal government aid due to the shutdown, they have not been able to maintain their normal operations. 

Schwarz said that the business received loans and federal aid from the government during their tenure of being closed down, and still hopes to receive the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant soon. The grant provides assistance to eligible venues that were impacted by COVID-19.

Bands are excited for the opportunity to get back to playing live shows for the public. Venues like Bottom of the Hill, which are waiting for capacity restrictions to be lifted, talked about the high demand.

“We already have a line of bands chomping at the bit to get back on stage. We’re really glad and really excited,” Schwarz said. “We just need to wait a few more months and then it will be a total musical renaissance!”

About the Writer
Photo of Sean Watkins
Sean Watkins, Staff Reporter

Sean Watkins is a lifetime Bay Area resident currently living in Walnut Creek. He is in his senior year at San Francisco State University with a major...

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