The owner of Keegan Ales Brewery in Kingston spoke with the state Liquor Authority this week.
After hanging up the phone, Tommy Keegan rewrote his radio advertising and plotted changes to his website and Facebook page because he had been told he could no longer advertise musical acts. He’s also telling the performers who play Keegans, and help draw customers, to refrain from advertising that they are playing his establishment.
It’s all driven by state restrictions aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic by restricting public gatherings. And it’s unfolding as the economic fallout of the pandemic continues to clobber the Hudson Valley’s live music and restaurant scenes.
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In addition to state restriction on what live music can be offered — officials had previously announced that ticketed shows are not allowed, although “incidental” music is permitted — the state last month issued additional guidance restricting a venue or eatery’s ability to advertise its performers.
That has added to the confusion and difficulty facing some owners as they struggle to provide services to customers while not drawing the ire of the state.
“I understand both sides of that coin,” Keegan said. “I understand the need for safety first for the community. But it seems like these are rules that are not being thought through by anyone with any experience in the restaurant industry.”
While Keegan changed his approach to suit restrictions, many venues have continued to advertise acts and ticketed performances. The website operated by The Falcon in Marlboro has musical acts listed after the phrase, “While You Dine.” Marty’s Mercantile in West Shokan, Ulster County, is selling tickets through its website for a Sept. 12 barbecue with live music by the Mammals.
Falcon owner Tony Falco could not be reached for comment. Marty Lynch, owner of Marty’s Mercantile, said he is charging for tickets so he can prepare the proper amount of food; control and cap attendance; and maintain a record of attendees for contact tracing.
These scenarios illustrate the confusion business owners have expressed in the past, as well as the lack of detail in initial state guidance regarding publicity, which did not specify the extent to which a venue or performer could not advertise. The term encompasses a broad span from paid ads and websites to social media and physical fliers.
An email from the state Liquor Authority on Wednesday said, “Musical acts should not be advertised at all at this time, whether paid or otherwise.”
“An advertised act is intended to draw patrons for the purpose of live entertainment, which can lead to crowds congregating, lingering, dancing, and arriving and departing at the same time,” the email said. “Our priority is to maintain the progress New York has achieved in slowing and stopping the spread of the coronavirus.”
The email also said, “Live entertainment activities have been prohibited since New York went on PAUSE in mid-March to stop the spread of coronavirus… Remember, we allowed outdoor and (outside of NYC) indoor dining, not live performances.”
Of course, even that statement conflicts with the state guidance that does allow for “incidental” live performances.
Uncertainty through restrictions
The Hyde Park Brewing Co. shut down March 16 and while it has since returned with outdoor and indoor dining, the live music that had been offered multiple nights a week remains on hold. That includes a blues jam that had been going on for 15 years.
Co-owner Angela Barone said the state’s restrictions on hosting live music create uncertainty.
“It’s sad because we are confused,” she said. “We don’t know if the SLA will walk in here and, what if someone, oh my God, stood up putting their mask on and did a twirl to the music. Oh my God, that looks like somebody dancing. You need to pick your battles.”
The pandemic and its economic impact have caused dramatic shifts in the live music and culinary landscape of the Hudson Valley.
Barone said business at the Hyde Park Brewing Co. declined by 87% when the pandemic hit and has crept back to a 60% decrease now. Also, it is now open just five days a week rather than seven.
Last week, Daryl’s House in Pawling, a restaurant and music venue operated by Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates, announced it was closing temporarily, “due to the existing situation.” The Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie has been closed since March and venues like The Falcon in Marlboro have shifted their live music offerings outdoors while continuing to operate their restaurants.
Meanwhile, more than 10 restaurants, bakeries and other eateries in Dutchess have closed since restrictions were put on indoor dining in March, in addition to those that decided to close temporarily at the outset of the pandemic.
The state Liquor Authority said this week that the Colony Woodstock and Bearsville Theater in Woodstock remain in compliance with what they have on their websites regarding live music. The Colony says its beer garden is open with a full bar, outdoor grill and live music. The Bearsville Theater’s website promotes its “Streamside Weekends” with live music.
John W. Barry: [email protected], 845-437-4822, Twitter: @JohnBarryPoJo
This article originally appeared on Poughkeepsie Journal: COVID: State restriction on advertising live music increases confusion for venues