Quick Take:

Local music venues reacted quickly Wednesday after a COVID-19 outbreak was linked to an indoor concert earlier this month at Felton Music Hall. “Hopefully, people will be patient,” the co-owner of Moe’s Alley said.

In the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak traced to a July 18 indoor concert at Felton Music Hall, Santa Cruz County music venues are taking steps to keep live music safe and viable for audiences.

The Rio Theatre has announced that it will be postponing the Jake Shimabukuro concert scheduled for Thursday. Moe’s Alley announced that it will be instituting new entrance protocols for its indoor shows. And Felton Music Hall will be requiring masks for indoors for “the foreseeable future.”

Ukulele master Shimabukuro’s date at the Rio was postponed out “of good conscience and public health,” said the Rio’s owner, Laurence Bedford. The Shimabukuro date has been moved to Sept. 24.

Moe’s Alley, which is set to begin its schedule of indoor concerts next week, announced Wednesday that it would be requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the previous 48 hours for admission to all indoor shows, beginning Thursday, Aug. 5. Those unable to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result will be required to wear a mask indoors at all times. For shows at Moe’s new outdoor venue, The Yard, masks will be required for those entering the club to use the bathroom or order drinks.

“It’s clearly going to require us to spend more time at the door before people get in,” said Moe’s co-owner Brian Ziel, “and hopefully, people will be patient.”

At Felton Music Hall, where the outbreak has been traced to an indoors show July 18 by the Grateful Dead tribute band Grateful Shred, club owner Thomas Cussins said he is “highly encouraging” all people coming to shows at the club to be vaccinated and requiring masks to be worn indoors. He also said that he was giving shifts to only fully vaccinated workers. Cussins also said that the club was investing in high-quality HEPA air filters to filter the air during open hours.

Felton Music Hall
Felton Music Hall aims to resume indoor events Aug. 5 — next Thursday. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Felton Music Hall has postponed all its indoor shows this weekend and plans to resume shows at the club Thursday, Aug. 5. The two shows at the socially distanced outdoor venue at Roaring Camp that are presented by Felton Music Hall on Thursday and Friday will go on as scheduled.

Cussins said that the decision to postpone the three scheduled shows this weekend was to ensure that his staff was safe: “We wanted to make sure that every employee was tested and every result came back negative before reopening (for live shows).”

Music venues across the country have been reemerging with live, in-person concerts and performances. In Santa Cruz County, Felton Music Hall and Moe’s Alley were been among the first venues to open. The Catalyst and Kuumbwa Jazz Center have not held live shows since the March 2020 shutdown. The Catalyst is scheduled to come back at the end of August and Kuumbwa in mid-September. The Rio does not have another show scheduled until the Neko Case date Aug. 26.

While urging everyone to get vaccinated, Felton Music Hall’s Cussins said he is personally looking over and responding to the club’s general e-mail (feltonmusichall@gmail.com), looking for any news of positive tests, answering questions about protocols or refunds, and engaging with his audiences.

He said that he does not anticipate the most recent outbreak to sideline music at his venue for long. “If there’s an outbreak, obviously, we need to stop, reassess, take new measures,” Cussins said. “But in the long term, we’re just planning to do the best we can to stay healthy and safe and adhere to any rules and regulations. But to stop the music for any length of time now is not something we’re planning on doing.”

Moe's Alley co-owner Brian Ziel
“I talked to one agent who told me that people are going to feel safer,” Moe’s Alley co-owner Brian Ziel said of his venue implementing COVID protocols. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Ziel of Moe’s Alley said he is reluctant to institute new measures that might diminish audiences for his shows or inconvenience those who do attend.

“We don’t want to have to do this,” he said of checking vaccination status at the door. “We take no joy in this, but we have to do this. This is where we are now.”

Ziel said it is still unclear the effect these new protocols might have on attendance at Moe’s shows. It’s possible, he said, it could be a positive effect.

“I talked to one agent who told me that people are going to feel safer. They’d be like, ‘Oh, I wasn’t going to go because I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in a crowd of people, but if you’re doing that, then maybe I’m in.’ So, we just don’t know at this point.”

Wallace reports and writes not only across his familiar areas of deep interest — including arts, entertainment and culture — but also is chronicling for Lookout the challenges the people of Santa Cruz...