Triangle entertainment venues preparing for eventual reopening
Posted June 24, 2020 8:36 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — With Gov. Roy Cooper hitting the pause button on North Carolina's efforts to resume business and social activities during the coronavirus pandemic, it's clear it will be quite a while before area entertainment venues are hosting concerts, plays and other events.
But that hasn't stopped venue managers for preparing for their eventual reopenings.
At the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, social distancing markers are on the ground, plans are in place to bring in machines to take people's temperatures and managers have put together a seating chart for 400 people – 23 percent capacity – to enjoy a symphony concert or a ballet.
"The goal is to space it out so everyone doesn’t walk in the door at the same time," said Kerry Painter, director of the Raleigh Convention and Performing Arts Complex. "It used to take 10 seconds to get people in a concert. Now, it’s going to take 28."
Her estimate includes time to apply hand sanitizer at the door.
Shows in Raleigh will likely start at 30 percent capacity, Painter said.
"If it’s on the lawn, you would have these 12 square feet for your four people, and we would paint it off, and that’s your space," she said.
Painter also leads a group that’s developing rules for venues statewide, including the Durham Performing Arts Center, where Broadway hit "Wicked" is planned for October before it moves to Greensboro and Charlotte.
"[The audience] can expect to be asked to wear a mask, because we know sitting next to people for any extended period of time is a hazard," she said.
Durham’s Carolina Theatre and the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro have continued to livestream concerts, with managers questioning whether audiences would even be ready to return right now.
Live Nation has plans for drive-in concerts in St. Louis, Nashville, Tenn., and Indianapolis, and Painter said that's an option for Raleigh once North Carolina's mass gathering restrictions are lifted.
“Five hundred is a lot of people, [but] maybe not when they are managed this way," she said. "They don’t have a lot of autonomy, unlike an open space or a festival."
When live events do return, cleaning will be a top priority.
"It's all going to take more staff – more staff to clean, more staff to consistently check," Painter said.
Raleigh is working towards a seal of approval from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council that will assess how each venue prevents the spread of infectious disease.
"We hope it tells people we have taken all the precautions that science tells us we can," she said.