After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recommended state residents avoid large gatherings, street party organizers postponed it to summer. And concert venues are “feeling uneasy” amid this “uncharted territory.”
With Michigan under a state of emergency due to concerns about coronavirus COVID-19, organizers of Irish on Ionia have postponed Saturday’s giant Grand Rapids street party, and more concerts and festivals could be affected.
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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday recommended residents avoid gatherings of 100 or more people. Barfly Ventures, which stages Irish on Ionia, said it made the “difficult decision” on Wednesday to delay the event until late summer. Irish On Ionia is billed as the state’s largest St. Patrick’s Day street party and attracts thousands of green-clad revelers each year.
“Our first priority is to ensure the safety of our staff and guests. We are very proud of the hundreds of hours of prep put in by our amazing team members and are disappointed that we have to put that work on hold,” the company stated.
“We will be postponing the street festival to late summer when we will reignite the party under hopefully much luckier circumstances. Details on the event will be released in the coming months at irishonionia.com.”
Those who purchased tickets can request a refund.
For now, most shows in the Grand Rapids area are proceeding as scheduled, with some venues evaluating the situation on a case-by-case basis and adding hand-sanitizing stations.
But Cadillac’s Gopherwood Concerts series has canceled Saturday’s “Made in Michigan Fundraiser” due to the governor’s recommendations for stemming the possible spread of the virus.
“We are really disappointed about this because it’s always so much fun, but we have folks who are in the group most at risk of getting severe disease from COVID-19, and we love them,” the Cadillac venue stated on Facebook.
‘UNCHARTED TERRITORY’ FOR CONCERT VENUES AND THOSE IN LIVE MUSIC
As Scott Hammontree, partner and talent buyer for The Intersection in Grand Rapids, put it, venues are “certainly feeling uneasy right now. Not sure how anyone in the live music business wouldn’t be.”
With eight shows scheduled at the multi-room venue in just the next five days alone, Hammontree said The Intersection is working to “thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces in the building” based on Centers for Disease Control guidelines, requiring staff to wash hands frequently, providing hand sanitizers at bars and restrooms, and even allowing fans to bring in their own.
“We’ll need to talk about the next few weeks,” conceded Calin Skidmore, manager and co-owner of Grand Rapids’ SpeakEZ Lounge which hosts live music regularly, including the Local Spins Wednesdays concert series. “This is uncharted territory.”
Thursday night’s Lauren Daigle concert at Van Andel Arena, which is expected to attract thousands of fans, will continue as scheduled, with Johnnyswim opening the show at 7:30 p.m. “All other events” currently scheduled at the arena will take place as planned, said marketing manager Alison Goodyke.
“We are closely monitoring the latest developments regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) globally and any potential impact it may have on our day-to-day operations here in Grand Rapids,” said Goodyke, adding that any actions the arena takes would follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and local health officials.
The economic impact of any concert cancellations – if and when they occur – is difficult to assess and certainly could affect many performers, Hammontree said.
“It’s too soon to tell. If shows are canceled without rescheduling, we would obviously lose all of that net income. If shows can be rescheduled to later dates, however, then we’ll have the potential to recover over a period of time,” he said.
“At this point, I’m unable to speculate beyond that.”
In the meantime, he said, The Intersection will continue to “monitor the situation as it develops and follow the advice of our local health officials.”
Quinn Mathews, general manager for Grand Rapids’ Listening Room — which hosts concerts almost nightly — conceded “these are unusual times” but insisted the new 200-capacity venue is prepared to adjust and was designed “with public health considerations in mind.”
“We take a lot of pride in the cleanliness of our music venue and our movie theaters. It’s one of the more frequent guest compliments we receive. So, it’s ‘business as usual’ but on steroids,” Mathews said. “We are all going to be a lot healthier, moving forward, if we all bolster these practices.”
He added: “Now, perhaps more than ever, people need the mini-vacation that live music provides.”
Michigan’s summer festival season also is looming with thousands gathering at Michigan sites every weekend, but it’s too early to tell how this pandemic might affect those events.
Copyright 2020, Spins on Music LLC