Updated reopening guidelines for restaurants and bars halts entertainment

New Hartford, NY – The dining and bar experience has already gone through drastic changes due to the coronavirus pandemic but now it will look even more different for customers who are used to listening to live music and playing some of their favorite bar games.

“Everybody is just trying to roll with the punches here but this one I just feel like was exceptionally unnecessary and exceptionally hard,” said Gary Johnson, local musician and entertainer.

The New York State Department has released an update on coronavirus Phase 3/4 reopening guidelines for licensed on premise establishments:

Courtesy: ny.gov

Q: I am a licensee that offers on premises service in a Phase 2/3/4 region, can I have dancing or offer bar games such as darts, pool, or Cornhole?

A: No, under the Department of Health interim guidance for outdoor dining and indoor dining, all persons who are not already seated (e.g., waiting for food, or waiting to be seated), should be encouraged to wait in their vehicle and/or leave the premises. Congregating other than persons seated at tables is not permissible. Patrons should be standing only for necessary reasons such as use of restrooms, entering, and exiting.

Q: Can I have live entertainment or a DJ in my indoor or outdoor dining area?

A: Restaurants and other on premises food and beverage establishments that have a license through the SLA are only allowed to offer on premise music if their license certificate specifically allows for such activity (i.e., live music, DJ, recorded, etc.). A manufacturer that has an on premises license also must assure that it’s on premises license certificate specifically allows for the type of music it is offering. A manufacturer without a separate on premises license may offer music unless its license certificate specifically prohibits such music.

If offering music, indoors or out, all relevant aspects of the respective Department of Health guidance dining must be followed, e.g., patrons should not be standing except for necessary reasons (e.g., restroom, entering/exiting), standing patrons should wear face coverings, etc. Performers should be at least 12 feet from patrons.

All other forms of live entertainment, such as exotic dancing, comedy shows, karaoke etc., are not permissible currently regardless of phase.

Additionally, please note that only incidental music is permissible at this time. This means that advertised and/or ticketed shows are not permissible. Music should be incidental to the dining experience and not the draw itself.

Q: I am a bar/restaurant owner that has a method of operation that allows for live entertainment, e.g., exotic dancing, comedy shows, karaoke etc., can I provide live entertainment currently?

A: No, generally incidental music is the only form of live entertainment which is permissible in a bar/restaurant setting currently (in any phase of New York Forward) – so long as see above FAQ on live music. For further information on specific circumstances, please check with Empire State Development, and the following tool: https://ift.tt/2zXmWMB.

For Gary Johnson who often performs at Cavallo’s Restaurant in New Hartford, this affects him personally.

“I tour colleges nationally for a living which I’m unable to do. When college season is out I DJ weddings in the summer which I’m also unable to do. I play at Turning Stone Casino at eight venues, seven of which are currently closed, and I perform at bars which is looking like that’s going to be more and more difficult to do,” said Johnson.

Adding, “Personally, I have a wife and a three year-old and five year-old daughter at home to take care of. My wife’s an esthetician so she’s also dealing with this too because she’s not back to work yet either. We finally are starting to get back to you a little bit of a feeling of normalcy so to have something like this happen right now it’s really a big slap in the face in life are able to recover some of these insane losses we’ve dealt with.”

Restaurants like One Genny in New Hartford support local entertainers.

“We want to do what’s best for public safety obviously and we want to be able to reopen as soon as we can so we will comply with whatever the Governor says,” said Michael Grande, General Manager of One Genny. “It does make it difficult for us in particular. We do offer music most nights of the week and we love to advertise that and also promote the musicians themselves. As far as I know, if music accompanies the dinner we can still do that so that’s what we’re going to go with. We just can’t advertise it or promote it heavily like we normally would.”

So what’s next for entertainers?

“That’s our biggest question, is we don’t know. We don’t know if life’s going to go back to normal in two months or if we’re going to be looking into 202. I would understand ‘tightening the reins’ if things were going wrong, if we’re all of a sudden seeing an outbreak. But we haven’t seen that so that’s why so many of us are scratching our heads trying to figure out what we’re going to have to do to feed our families.” said Johnson.

You can find the detailed guidelines for the New York State Department here.

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