ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – The New York State Liquor Authority appears to have changed its live music guidelines again.
In a News 8 article published Monday, the state clarified that bars and restaurants were only allowed to have live music if it was “incidental,” but all “performances” would be banned. The move allowed Three Heads Brewing, for example, to have live music indoors, but the huge hall at the Hochstein School remained empty.
ALC now states that all “ticketed” events are cancelled, and the definition of “incidental music” has been clarified as follows:
“Incidental music is unticketed, unadvertised entertainment that accompanies and is incidental to a dining experience; that is, customers came to dine and the music provided is incidental to the dining experience.
Danny Deutsch, the owner of Abilene Bar & Lounge, was going the incidental music route Wednesday night with a band called “The Bell Weather Breaks” internally. Deutsch says he has spoken with the governor’s office to get further clarification on what this entails. He says incidental music basically comes down to avoiding large crowds and keeping the food service at heart.
“Everyone who comes here is socially distant, grabbing a bite and hearing a band. Really incidental,” he says.
He says the deal isn’t ideal, but it’s doable. But do not get me wrong. Even though there is a tip for musicians and there is foot traffic in Abilene, Deutsch says times are still very tough.
“It’s tough. There’s no doubt that it’s tough right now. So we’ll stick to the rules as long as we understand them,” he said.
News 8 obtained an email sent by SLA from an anonymous source who received it. The email purports to be a reminder, but it actually contains new guidelines from what was presented on Monday.
SLA email provided by an anonymous source:
“To all licensees with on-site service privileges,
We would like to take a moment to remind licensees (who may have the privilege of providing entertainment) what is currently considered safe in terms of live entertainment. Currently, only incidental musical performances are safe and permitted. Incidental music is unticketed, unadvertised performances that accompany and are incidental to a dining experience; that is, customers came to dine and the music provided is incidental to the dining experience. Performers must be 12 feet away from patrons. This is the only form of live entertainment allowed. Any other type of event (concerts, dance, comedy, etc.) is not incidental and is therefore prohibited at this time for health and safety reasons. The performing arts guidelines have yet to be released by the Department of Health.
If you would like to provide incidental music, please also take a moment to note if your license permits this. A site license can provide incidental music as long as the type of music is explicitly authorized on the license certificate. A manufacturing license may provide incidental music unless the license certificate explicitly prohibits it. Also note that karaoke is currently not permitted for health and safety reasons.
We hope this helps clarify your privileges and responsibilities. If you have further questions, please refer to existing DOH and SLA guidelines. »
Here is the statement provided Monday by the Empire State Development spokesperson, which mentions nothing about the tickets and only discusses the difference between incidental music and performing arts:
“Live music is only permitted in bars and restaurants for seated customers ordering food if it is part of their liquor license. An exception to this rule is drive-in concerts, which are only permitted if patrons remain in their vehicle at all times, unless they use the restroom. All social distancing and cleaning and sanitizing protocols must be followed while customers are using the restroom.
Live entertainment, whether indoor or outdoor, is not permitted at this time. Shows like this are high-risk gatherings that create exactly the type of environment we try to avoid, as individuals mingle and create congestion entering and exiting. Reports show that infections are rising in more than 35 states and officials in those states have been forced to shut down businesses and other sectors of the economy that were opened too soon. Additionally, every public opinion poll has shown that an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers support our approach to reopening, and protecting the health and safety of New Yorkers remains our number one priority.
Asked Monday about the health of performing arts centers – which typically host paid shows – Rochester Fringe Festival producer Erica Fee said:
“We have to recognize, though, that if we’re not going to supplement performing arts with state funding, that when the pandemic is over, we may not have performing arts anymore,” he said. she declared. “We certainly won’t have all the venues we’re used to here in Rochester. So if it’s something important in our culture, we have to find a way to operate safely.
Fee, however, said Wednesday that she was happy to see this “loophole” that allowed bars to have live music, but not performing arts centers; but she added that she thought any music or indoor performance was problematic, and the big issue was how the state communicated those changes.
“Ticketing is seriously awesome, event security experts say ticketing – even for free events – is a great way to control your crowd,” she said.
She’s disappointed the state isn’t doing anything to help outdoor events, which are much safer, have a very short lifespan, especially given Rochester’s long winters.
“Performing indoors is not safe for customers, and it’s not safe for long-term performers,” she said. “We really need to focus on keeping this industry going. Performers shouldn’t lose financially because of this, because by doing the right thing (by not performing) they shouldn’t be hurt.
Fee also says the United States needs to “get along with the rest of the world” when it comes to funding the arts, arguing that funding even comes above the states.
“New York State is in dire straits economically,” she said. “Where we need help right now is from the federal government.”
MORE | Why bars and restaurants can have live music, but performing arts centers can’t
Empire State Development did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce submitted this statement on Wednesday:
“Rochester Chamber continues to push every day to reopen as quickly as possible. The resilience of this community is remarkable, as is the passion and tenacity of the business owners in our nine-county region. With Bob Duffy leading the effort here, the Finger Lakes region was the first reopening for each of the four phases. And thanks to Governor Cuomo and his administration, New York State has been protected from the nationwide resurgence. The last thing we want to see is such an irresponsible reopening that we are forced to go back to square one. We are doing very well and must continue on this trajectory. Ensuring businesses can open their doors and thrive remains our top priority. We will continue to work all day, every day to achieve this goal.
These guidelines are for businesses licensed for entertainment purposes and do not include establishments such as drive-ins where concerts have been held in recent weeks.
From the end of the second paragraph of this outdoor guide:
“Finally, these guidelines also do not address high-risk outdoor arts and entertainment activities, including but not limited to places of public entertainment (e.g. amusement parks, parks aquatics, carnivals), concerts or performing arts beyond the essential no-gathering limit in effect for the particular region, which remain closed at the time of publication.
However, indoor performances cannot take place for “casinos, concerts, cinemas, performing arts or other theatrical productions, which remain closed at the time of publication,” according to indoor guidelines.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.