Entertainment venues inch towards 100% capacity, while lockout laws dropped
The live sector’s hard times continue as delays in vaccines could mean that the live sector’s plan to properly restart in October are pushed back to mid-2022.
But venue operators in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle and Canberra could breathe a small collective sigh of relief as rules are relaxed.
From last Saturday (April 10), seated indoor and outdoor entertainment, cultural and sports venues of up to 1,000 patrons were allowed 100% capacity.
These covered music and concert halls as well as theatres, cinemas, auditoriums, galleries, museums, and sports and physical recreation facilities.
Those over 1,000 remain at 75%, but authorities are working at easing these as well subject to outbreaks and people being compliant with mandatory QR code usage.
WA’s seated auditoriums and amphitheatres, theatres, concert halls, cinemas, comedy lounges and performing arts centres returned to 100% on April 10.
“Major venues such as Optus Stadium, RAC Arena, HBF Stadium and HBF Park will be able to have 100% of the fixed seating capacity in the spectator seating and special seating spaces”, Premier Mark McGowan said.
The two square metre rule for pubs, nightclubs, bars and other music events will be reviewed in May, which may see a return to 100% capacity.
The Festival Centre’s assortment of venues went to 100% capacity from 75% after SA Health approved its latest COVID management plan.
These are Festival Theatre, Dunstan Playhouse, Space Theatre and Her Majesty’s on Grote Street.
As a result, more tickets went on sale for shows including the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and Adelaide Guitar Festival in winter.
But audiences at 100% capacity shows have to wear masks.
In its annual report, Adelaide Festival Centre reported that the impact of COVID-19 saw the cancellation of 77 shows, refunding of $2 million worth of tickets (mostly for School of Rock The Musical which returned 19,560 tickets), as well as $2.4 million in lost venue hire and cutting half its staff.
Music venues in the state are now eligible for up to $15,000 from the SA Government’s $320,000 grants via the Music Development Office to deliver original music.
From 9am on April 14, Canberra’s cinemas and indoor performance venues with forward-facing, fixed-tiered seating can return to full capacity provided all events are ticketed and seated, and have an approved COVID-Safety plan.
If they do not, they remain at 75% capacity.
Live music venues will not automatically go to 100% as “we do recognise it’s not going to be practical in all instances to be seated”, said ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith.
“Each individual venue will be supported on a case-by-case basis.”
These include getting exemptions for big crowds to increase attendance and being advised on hosting COVID-Safe events.
The Basement in Belconnen could sell more tickets – up to 350 instead of 195 – for local band Tonk’s farewell show on the weekend.
After 13 years, Newcastle’s lockout laws will be lifted in September as part of a 12-month trial.
Under the so-called ‘Newcastle Solution’ – often used to justify Sydney’s lockout disaster – inner-city venues enforced a 1:30am lockout, a 3:30am mandatory closing time and limits on the sale of cocktails, neat spirits and shots after 10pm.
Venue owners are anticipating revenue growth. A six-month Newcastle Night Time Economy trial that saw 21 low-impact bars and restaurants have their hours extended to 2am and midnight respectively saw attendance up 28%, staff hours up 35% and turnover up 68.95% as the inner-city proved to be safe and vibrant.