Live music returns to outdoor venues under Ontario's Step 2

The_Neat_Cafe_Burnstown

BURNSTOWN, ONT. -- Under Step 2 of Ontario's reopening plan, outdoor live music is back on once again.

At the Neat Cafe in Burnstown, west of Ottawa, they are already preparing for their second show of the year.

"We’re doing shows of 100 [people] outside because we can socially distance everybody," says cafe owner Mark Enright. "The artists play under the shed here and we have everybody socially distanced. We socially distance the different groups on the lawn."

Ontario's Step 2 rules permit outdoor live music with crowds capped at 25 per cent capacity, while indoor live music is restricted until Step 3.

The Neat Cafe opened their concert season with a sold out show the night of Canada Day.

"Everybody was so pumped, there were people coming up to me afterwards saying thank you, thank you. I think it was just an amazing night."

Now in town for shows back-to-back nights are Canadian group The Sadies. The cafe has a covered porch artists can perform under rain or shine, and Enright says the property has about one acre of space.

"We have shows booked right out until the end of August, all the July shows are on sale now and most of them are sold out," says Enright. "I think it’s amazing for everybody’s mental health and it just gets a bit of normalcy going again."

But not all venues are lucky enough to have a fitting outdoor setup. Larger venues like the National Art Centre are still waiting until Step 3 before welcoming audiences back.

"I would say percentage capacity in halls is really the pressure point," says Annabelle Cloutier, Executive Director of Strategy and Communications at the National Arts Centre. "Until we know how many people we can sit in a hall, it’s hard to plan in terms of ticket sales."

For now, the NAC plans to continue with virtual shows. Their live outdoor shows will begin with music on the canal July 8, where spectators can take in the show from shore.

“We see the bulk of shows really starting closer to November," says Cloutier. "And then, of course, January 2022 we have major productions coming at the NAC including Hamilton."

But until clearer guidelines are laid out, the National Arts Centre says they are not prepared to navigate a live audience again.

"So we’re hoping the government of Ontario will come out with clear regulations under stage 3, and really around capacity in the halls."

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