New York State has dealt a major blow to music venues and the artists who perform at them, with a new set of guidelines from its Liquor Authority. Late yesterday, venue owners were notified by the state that pre-advertised or ticketed shows will be banned for an indefinite amount of time.
The rule has since been posted to the New York State Liquor Authority’s website.
“Basically, we can’t have ticketed or advertised shows,” says Putnam Place’s General Manager Gary Fox. (Putnam Place is owned by Saratoga Living‘s owner). “We can have music but only as part of a dining experience as opposed to shows.” Fox added that Putnam Place would be pulling all of its advertising for any upcoming free music on its patio. Upstate Concert Hall Owner Ted Etoll echoed Fox’s frustration. “All I can say is there are so many rules that no one understands,” he says. “[It] has caused chaos.”
However, local restaurants and bars that serve food and beverages that have a State Liquor Authority license are still allowed to offer music onsite “if their license certificate specifically allows for such activity.” For example, a restaurant could have a live band or DJ onsite, who is not the main reason people are there. Saratoga County restaurants and bars are allowed to host musicians both outdoors and indoors—obviously, that’s season dependent—as long as they’re a form of “small-scale entertainment,” meant to be heard only by customers (in the state’s words “incidental”). Of course, all COVID-19 health protocols must also be met, so said restaurant or bar would have to be at 50 percent capacity; all patrons would have to be seated and if not, wearing a mask and headed to the bathroom, not standing around watching the artist perform; and the performers themselves would need to be at least 12 feet from patrons.
The lone exception to the rule continues to be Saratoga’s historic folk venue Caffè Lena, which was deemed “essential” at the end of April, and has been streaming live, spectator-less performances from its venue to its YouTube page. It’s worth noting, though, that Lena is a nonprofit organization, not a for-profit concert venue. However, Lena is also negatively affected by the rule, given that last month, it was thinking about reopening to limited-capacity performances but pulled the plug on the plans at the last minute.