'Very hopeful': Ottawa musicians, centres welcome capacity limit changes for some venues

There is relief in the performing arts sector in Ottawa and across Ontario as the province lifts capacity limits for select indoor and outdoor venues.

As of Saturday, capacity limits are no longer in place for venues where proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required. That means concert venues, theatres, event spaces, sports stadiums and outdoor settings below 20,000 people can operate at 100 per cent capacity.

While the lifting of the capacity restrictions is welcome news, those in the industry says it's going to take some time to return to pre-pandemic levels.

"It’s not easy to say, 'Oh everything is open, let’s go out and perform,'" said Tony D, the guitarist for Monkey Junk and the Tony D Band. "No, it takes months and months to book shows or tours so I don’t know how we’re going to survive in the interim of getting everything back to the capacity for ourselves."

The Ottawa musician says the key is gaining the confidence of the public, making sure they feel safe to be back in the venues.

"The idea of coming back to full venues for me is very hopeful," he said. "I’m just hoping it's safe to do so."

To date, more than 22 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the province, a number Ontario continues to push higher. That’s driving the excitement at the Bronson Centre music theatre.

"We’ve been waiting for this for so long, the place has been empty," said Corey Mayville, the executive director of the Bronson Centre. 

Before the pandemic, the theatre would hold up to 1,000 people and the stage fully booked with musical acts. Though venues were allowed to open this summer with limited capacity, Mayville said ensuring physical distancing in a small indoor space was a challenge to be open full-time.

"The cost would be too much we’d probably lose money for a gig than making coin," he said. 

The latest announcement and steady increase in vaccination numbers give both Mayville and Tony D hope for an industry hit hard by the pandemic restrictions and lockdowns.

"Hopefully, this thing will stick, and we’ll get out there and perform,” said Tony D.