With capacity limits increasing and proof-of-vaccination in effect, Ontario is inching closer to a return of the concert scene that was effectively wiped out by COVID-19. Last week, changes to capacity limits for many large concert venues and theatres was increased to 50 per cent capacity or 10,000 people (whichever is less).
While smaller clubs and concerts halls have been left to navigate at half capacity with seating and distancing requirements, there is at least financial support on the way. On Monday, the Ontario government announced a $100 million investment in the province’s tourism sector. The money will go to small businesses’ recovery efforts from the pandemic.
The pledge of funds is welcome news for president of Collective Concerts and owner of Lee’s Palace and the Horseshoe Tavern, Jeff Cohen.
“Well, the announcement itself is very exciting because we’re part of the hardest hit part of the pandemic, first to close and among the last to reopen, and we’re still in semi-lockdown,” Cohen told CBC.
“Anything that the province, or federal government, or the city hands out to live music clubs, or venues, or promoters, or anyone in the music industry in Toronto that is hard hit by the pandemic, or other sectors, like restaurants and tourism operators, is welcome news.”
The owner of two live music venues in Toronto says it's "welcome news" that the Ontario government has announced that it will invest $100 million in the province's tourism sector to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. https://t.co/dRTtNQE335
— CBC Toronto (@CBCToronto) September 28, 2021
Ontario Minister of Tourism Lisa MacLeod indicated that the investment will be allocated via the province’s new Tourism Recovery Program. Businesses such as clubs and smaller concert venues that continue to operate under capacity limits are included in the program.
Cohen had previously been vocal about the effect of the province’s capacity limits have had on the live music industry.
“No non-Canadian is gonna cross the border and go through rigorous testing protocols, risking having a crew member/artist test positive while in Ontario/Canada, and then having to potentially quarantine, for Doug Ford’s minuscule 17 to 23 per cent indoor venue cap,” Cohen told NOW Magazine earlier this month. “Agents, managers and artists are instead re-routing to Buffalo, where they can play shows at 100 per cent capacity. [In the] short-term, Toronto is disappearing from most 2021 and 2022 music routing, which has long-term negative effects.”
Many concerts announced for fall 2021 have already been postponed, or in some cases cancelled. Others have been moved to venues capable of housing more people, or to Toronto’s outdoor CityView Drive-In.
A lot of folks asking about Toronto shows. As long as there are capacity limits even on shows where proof of vaccination and masking is required, bands like us cannot make any money playing shows in Ontario. It’s up to the government.
— Stars (@youarestars) September 13, 2021
How exactly the money is to be distributed remains to be seen, but for venue owners like Cohen any money will help at this point. Cohen told CBC Lee’s Palace is running at a loss of approximately 90 per cent of pre-pandemic revenues, while the Horseshoe is closer to 80 per cent.