- Photo by Fionn Reilly
- Tony Falco.
While musicians shelter in place, work on new material, step up their online fan engagement, and commune with their couches, local venues mainly remain dark. We say "mainly" because of the area venues that also serve food, some, like Daryl's House in Pawling and Tubby's in Kingston, are partially open to offer curbside pickup service for select menu items and beverages, in accordance with New York State guidelines for restaurants (the former, owned by hitmaker Daryl Hall, is even taking orders for grocery packages that include toilet paper, bread, milk, vegetables, and other essentials).
The majority, though, are simply hoping to hang on long enough to make it through as they look forward to a safe and sensibly paced reopening—whatever that might mean, given the new paradigm of social distancing. It's a scary time for all small businesses, especially live music outlets: The newly formed National Independent Venue Association states that the bulk of its 1,300 member venues don't have enough reserves to last more than six months without federal aid. To raise awareness of the situation to lawmakers, NIVA launched the Save Our Stages campaign (#saveourstages).
"Right now, we're figuring that we could do 25 percent of our normal capacity of 400 and stay compliant with state social distancing guidelines," says Michael Amari, booking agent at the recently renovated Bearsville Theater, a NIVA member, like Tubby's, Daryl's House, and several other regional venues (see the NIVA website for a full list). "It could mean us having to bring ticket prices up. But the audience demographic that might be able to pay a little more for tickets tends to be older people, who are the most at risk [for COVID-19]. Hopefully, bands will understand about coming down on their guarantees to make things work. We'll probably only be booking local bands for the first year once we reopen. It might make sense for some out-of-town bands to play multiple nights."
"We've been doing a lot of painting and cleaning and we're ready to go whenever we get the word, but it's hard enough to make money when you have a full house," says the Falcon's owner, Tony Falco, whose operation gives 100 percent of its audience donations to performers and relies on bar and food sales to cover operating costs and pay its staff (unfortunately, the venue's location on a narrow stretch of Route 9W and its largely out-of-town clientele mean curbside food service untenable). "I won't be able to hire a lot of my employees back; luckily, they're all getting unemployment. We have good outdoor seating and we plan to switch to easier food like pizzas and burgers."
Thanks to a 35-acre grant from the neighboring Tilcon building materials company, during the lockdown Falco has himself been clearing trails for public use on land adjacent to the club. His primary concern, though, is with the musicians. "It's a real struggle for them," says the entrepreneur, whose water testing lab business sustains his family. "They give us so much, and they live hand-to-mouth. Those are the cats I'm worried about. Not me."