On Stage: COVID spike means brief run of live shows coming to an end

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times 

Pete Davidson

The old saying, “If you snooze, you lose,” is valid for a wide variety of situations.

If you don’t take advantage of watermelon and fresh-picked corn on the market shelves during the summer and early fall, don’t be disappointed when you look for it now and it’s long gone.

The signs were there. Growing seasons only last so long. People who chose to ignore the signs have to deal with the consequences.

The same goes for being able to hear music performed in a live concert setting.

Back in March, restrictions caused by COVID-19 almost completely wiped out live music and theater performances.

There were glimmers of hope for live shows. Some venues actually hosted indoor performances in late July, but the era of indoor live shows quickly drew to a close.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced statewide mitigation efforts as COVID-19 cases surge in Pennsylvania.

Some of the mitigation efforts were that bars and restaurants that allow indoor dining could only be able to seat up to 25 per cent of their capacity; alcohol only can be served for on-premises consumption when in the same transaction as a meal; and indoor gatherings are limited to 25 people (outdoor gatherings remain at a maximum of 250 people).

During the summer, there were some local shows presented in an outdoor setting such as Vanessa Collier’s matinee concert a few weeks ago at the Candlelight Dinner Theatre in Arden, Delaware,

Fans also were able to enjoy live music via drive-in concerts. Fortunately, there were two drive-in concert programs in Chester County – People’s Light in Malvern and SALT in Glenmoore — and one by The Grand in nearby Wilmington, Delaware.

Additionally, several area bars, wineries and restaurants hosted low-key music concerts – most of which were held outdoors.

Recently, the signs have been there that the current state of availability of live music in the area was about to change – and not change for the good.

First is the weather.

This weekend might be the last few days that will feature temperatures in the 60s – for a long time to come. Shirtsleeve weather is gone. The time for morning frost has arrived.

More important than weather graphs are graphs showing the alarming spikes in COVID-19 numbers around the region

This should come as no surprise to anyone – except those who attend political rallies, cluster at collegiate keg parties, those who refuse to wear masks and generally ignore pandemic safety regulations.

States and cities have begun calling their citizens back in and, like ancient castles under attack, are ready to raise the drawbridges.

The local music scene just took another big hit from the City of Philadelphia and COVID-19.

Philly is the home to an amazing number of entertainment venues and some have already met their demise — including Boot & Saddle and Bourbon and Branch.

On November 17, the City of Philadelphia began clamping down.

The following message was posted on the City’s website:

As Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley says, “We may be tired of COVID, but COVID’s not tired of us.” 

In response to rising COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia, the City and Department of Public Health have announced changes to restrictions on businesses, events and gatherings, and other activities to help flatten the epidemic curve, prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, and reduce the number of COVID-19 deaths. 

The new “Safer at Home” restrictions are effective November 20, 2020 through January 1, 2021. An extension of these restrictions and/or the implementation of additional restrictions is possible depending on trends in the spread of coronavirus in the city.  

The following businesses and activities are not allowed:

High schools and colleges must move to online instruction only, with the exception of clinical instruction for students in health sciences.  

Indoor dining at restaurants and other food service businesses. (Takeout, delivery and outdoor dining may continue. Additional restrictions on outdoor dining are detailed below.)  

Theaters, including movie theaters, and other performance spaces.  

Bowling alleys, arcades and game spaces. 


Libraries. (Those serving as Access Centers may continue to operate. Curbside dropoff and pickup services for patrons are allowed.) 


Recreational activities and sports for youth, community groups, and schools.  

Gyms and indoor exercise classes. (Exercise groups and classes may continue outdoors.) 

Indoor pools. 

Senior day services (senior centers and adult day care centers) remain closed. 

Changes to events and gatherings include: 

All indoor gatherings and events involving people from more than one household are prohibited, in public or private spaces. This includes private events such as weddings and showers, listed as “celebrations” in previous guidance, as well as funerals.  

Religious institutions are permitted to have people indoors, but density must be capped at 5 people per 1,000 sq. ft. or 5 percent of maximum occupancy.  

Outdoor gatherings and events are limited to 10 percent of maximum capacity of the space, or 10 people per 1,000 sq. ft. for venues with an undefined maximum capacity—not to exceed 2,000 people in any outdoor space. In addition, all individuals at outdoor gatherings must wear masks at all times, and—to reinforce mask use—neither food nor beverages may be served. 

Additional changes to capacity limits and other precautions will be instituted for businesses and activities that are able to continue: 

Restaurants offering outdoor dining must reduce table sizes to four people. Guidance will make it clear that groups dining outdoors should be household members only, because mixing different households promotes community-wide spread. 

Retail stores and indoor malls may continue to operate, but with a maximum density of 5 people per 1,000 square feet. The City will require these stores to enforce mask use and distancing of customers and staff.   

Offices are permitted to have only employees that cannot work remotely. 

Barbershops, beauty salons, and similar personal services may continue to operate, but all staff and customers must wear masks at all times. These businesses cannot work on the face or otherwise perform services that require that masks be removed. 

College sports may continue if their plan is specifically approved by the Department of Public Health and no spectators are present.  

Zoos may operate only their outdoor areas.  

Parks, trails, playgrounds, and athletic fields will remain open for individual use only. (No group sports.)  

From an entertainment fan’s viewpoint, the key items are — Theaters, including movie theaters, and other performance spaces and all indoor gatherings and events involving people from more than one household are prohibited, in public or private spaces on the “not allowed” lists; and outdoor gatherings and events are limited to 10 per cent of maximum capacity of the space.

Comedy clubs were able to fare well throughout the summer restrictions with indoor and outdoor stage areas. Helium Comedy Club presented 18 shows from November 1-15. The venue’s show on November 18 featuring Pat House closed the house down for the rest of 2020 (at the least).

Rickie Velez

Punch Line Philly has six shows on November 20 and 21 featuring Pete Davidson and Rickie Velez — at its outdoor stage. After that, the venue will be dark for a while.

Here is a statement from Punch Line Philly:

“Upcoming shows slated for outdoor viewing will continue as planned in accordance with all restrictions as laid out by local health authorities, and with the safety of our guests and artists being our top priority. We will continue exploring our options for future shows and encourage fans to follow our social media accounts or check our website for future show announcements and details.” 

Jesse Lundy is the booking agent and publicist for Point Productions, a well-respected music entertainment company that presents shows at area clubs and theaters.

“We have a moral responsibility not to let people gather and a financial obligation not to do a show with 25 people in the audience,” said Lindy, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

“Comedy clubs have been able to do it but not rock clubs. With rock clubs having a show in a room with 50 in the room – the math doesn’t work.”

Venues in Pennsylvania (outside Philly limits) and Delaware also have to contend with new COVID-19 created restrictions.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine on Tuesday introduced a group of stronger orders and recommendations, including telling out-of-state visitors to be tested before arrival, and ordering people to wear masks in all indoor and outdoor establishments.

Starting on November 20, anyone who enters Pennsylvania (not people who commute to neighboring states for work or health care) must be tested at least 72 hours before arrival. If do not get a test, they must quarantine for 14 days.

Pennsylvania’s universal masking order now requires people to wear masks anywhere where people are indoors or outdoors with others who are not members of their household. Masks are required outside where it isn’t possible to maintain at least a six-foot distance from others.

On the day of Levine’s announcements, Pennsylvania set a pandemic record with 5,900 additional confirmed cases reported Tuesday. It was the fifth time in the past six days that Pennsylvania has recorded more than 5,000 cases.

As of November 17, Chester County had no new restrictions even though it is one of 59 of 67 counties classified as “substantial spreaders” – along with surrounding counties Delaware, Lancaster, Berks, Montgomery, Bucks, Lehigh and Philadelphia.

The state of Delaware has also issued new restrictions that will take effect 8 a.m. on November 23.

Delaware will limit indoor gatherings in private homes to 10 people and indoor dining to 30 per cent capacity. Indoor gatherings outside of homes, including weddings, funerals, religious services, and political gatherings, will be also be limited to 30 per cent of the venue’s capacity, capped at 50 people.

Right now, only the die-hard optimist expects to see a live show by a national act anytime for months and months.

“The attitude for everybody is that we’d like to get things started again,” said Lundy. “We’d like to produce shows but it’s not worth getting geared up for.”

There are, however, several local venues presenting live music shows throughout November and December – low key shows at small venues with local artists.

Sam Seider

Cedar Hollow Inn Restaurant and Bar (2455 Yellow Springs Road, Malvern, www.cedarhollowinn.com) will present Kendal Conrad on November 19, Nicki Sbaffoni on November 20, Matt Sevier on November 21, Sam Seider on December 3 and Sunshine Jones on December 12.

The Bordley House (1520 Tattersal Way, West Chester, www.bordleyhousegrille.com) is presenting Ziggy Isaacs on November 21.

Brickside Grille (540 Wellington Square, Exton, bricksidegrille.com) is hosting Paul & Dave on November 14, Bob Starner on November 15, Madeline Knight on November 21, Michael Kropp on November 22, Nicole Zell on November 28, Steve Rhodes on November 29, David Pickett on December 5, KP? on December 6, Chris Lebresco on December 12, Clay MacElwee on December 13, Samantha Seider on December 19, Dave Saunders on December 20, Dan Graber on December 27 and Madeline Knight on December 27.

Tuned Up Brewing Co. (135 North Main Street, Spring City, www.tunedupbrew.com) will present John Costello on November 20, Mr. Mody on November 27 and December 25, Mike Kropp on December 5, and Bill Ferreri on December 11.

Creekside Sports Bar & Grille (765 N Lewis Road, Royersford, http://www.creeksidesportsbar.com/) will host Shot of Southern on November 20, Musician Impossible on November 21, Coast to Coast on November 25,  Uptown Band on November 27, and Buzzer Band on November 28.

One last note – there is one club in Philadelphia that is still going full speed ahead.

But it’s not a music club, it’s a “Gentleman’s Club” – Cheerleaders Philadelphia, which is located on South Front Street not far from the Stadium Complex.

“Of course, we’re staying open past November 21,” said a club spokesman. “We’ve been open under a huge outdoor tent since September. We have plenty of heaters and a lot of room for social distancing.”

For the patrons’ sake, I hope they are not blinded by high beams.

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