Virginia’s Phase 3 guidelines go in effect Wednesday, with some Roanoke Valley entertainment and recreation outlets ready to open. But with COVID-19 still at a high spread rate, some are pushing back their opening dates.
Center in the Square, which utilized digital offerings for educational fun after closing in March, has received a hospital grade building disinfection, courtesy of Green Home Solutions, the center said in a news release. It opens Wednesday, enforcing physical distancing, face coverings for staff and patrons and hand sanitizer stations, among other measures. Staff will be subject to health monitoring and will routinely clean high-contact areas, according to the news release.
“It has been lonely not having an atrium, rooftop, and museums full of families learning and creating memories,” Center in the Square President Jim Sears said in the news release. “It seems that even our aquatic life in the six aquariums miss seeing children and families.”
The Taubman Museum of Art will open Friday, with masks required for anyone 10 and older.
Movie theaters, meanwhile, will miss their crowds for a while longer, having set back their planned openings, according to published reports. AMC Theatres, which runs AMC Classic Roanoke 10 and AMC Classic Salem Valley 8, originally had planned to reopen nationwide on July 15, but has moved that target back to July 30. Cineworld, which owns Valley View Grande Stadium 16, has pushed back its reopening dates worldwide from July 10 to July 30.
Grandin Theatre Executive Director Ian Fortier said that the venue is not scheduled to open full time in either July or August. Instead, it will engage such second-run classic movies as “Jurassic Park,” “Jaws” and “Back to the Future” on Fridays, with the 320-capacity main theater open to crowds of between 80 and 100, Fortier said. The theater will continue selling popcorn and candy on Fridays to people who want to take it home.
The Grandin is promoting private rentals, in which couples or small groups may use a theater for the night, with the option to buy concessions and bar items. That was a popular option in June, with 15 private rentals.
“It’s a good way for us to generate revenue to support the theater, but also a really low-risk, safety-conscious, safety-protocol way for patron engagement,” Fortier said.
Where live music is concerned, if it’s not happening outdoors, it’s still not happening at the valley’s major venues.
Jefferson Center, for which the coronavirus scuttled the latter portion of its 2019-20 series shows, has three dates tentatively set for the fall but is not releasing the information yet, as those dates are not guaranteed to happen, Executive Director Cyrus Pace said.
A complicating factor is that the guidelines call for 10-foot distances where singing is involved, same as for events where cheering is involved. That’s at the top of the guidelines for physical distancing best practices. Farther down the list, under the heading “entertainment and public amusement,” best practices call for 10 feet between performers, participants and patrons who aren’t members of the same household.
“The issue for us is [that] nothing that we had planned to do made sense for an audience of 190 people, which is what we estimated we could do in [900-capacity Shaftman Performance Hall], at 6-foot distance,” Pace said. “So if it was actually 10 feet of distance, say between a singer and the audience, or worse, 10 feet of distance between every audience member or ticketed party, we would be under 100 cap in our main room.”
Berglund Center doesn’t have a concert on its schedule until Oct. 25, when Collective Soul, Better Than Ezra and Tonic are set for the center’s arena. Big Lick Comic Con is listed for Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, and puppet comic Jeff Dunham is scheduled for the venue’s theater on Nov. 21. A few non-concert events are scheduled there, too.
Salem Civic Center, which has presented one drive-in-style concert in its parking lot, has at least one more of those planned in July, and it will bring country singer Chase Rice to Salem Memorial Baseball Stadium on Aug. 14.
Rice this week experienced criticism for his outdoor performance at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, now converted to an event venue in Tennessee. Photos from the concert showed many mask-free audience members packed together.
“As far as concerts and music, we’re not even looking at anything inside right now,” Salem Civic Center general manager Wendy Delano said. “It’s not even on our radar until we get a comfort level. It’s hard enough to figure out how to keep people socially distanced outside. Bringing them inside for a show would be even more challenging, and quite frankly, [the commonwealth hasn’t] freed up enough for us to be able to do that, [to] make it profitable for us to even consider doing it.”
About a week before the Rice show, the civic center will send out guidelines to ticket-buyers, Delano said.
At Martin’s Downtown, which has been the most consistent live music presenter among Roanoke Valley nightspots, Phase 3 represents very little change in general, co-owner Jason Martin said in an email exchange. Though capacity limits have been lifted, the restaurant must still keep 6 feet of distance between patrons. That keeps the room’s capacity at about 50%, Martin wrote.
He plans to bring back live music for audiences on Aug. 1.
“The one positive addition is we can now seat people at the bar, still at a distance,” he wrote. “We should be able to add around 12 seats.”