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Some performance venues close as omicron spreads

Published: Jan. 15, 2022 at 8:47 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - As the omicron surge continues, performance venues across the country, including here in New England, are canceling shows and shutting down again just like they did at the start of the pandemic.

Chad Hollister, a Vermont-based guitarist, singer-songwriter and drummer, says due to the current omicron surge, he’s not doing any live gigs.

“The venues closing has really affected a lot of my community. It’s just turned us upside down,” Hollister said. “Taking a step back for health reasons but also just for self-preservation.”

Instead, Hollister has been making custom songs for various businesses and nonprofits. It’s a shift that he says is working out well for him.

“It’s a good way to keep playing music but stay out of the public breathing on you,” he said.

But Hollister says some of his colleagues who aren’t ready to leave the live music scene just yet are struggling to book gigs, as venues around New England start to cancel shows and shut down again for the second time during the pandemic.

“Just financial devastation. People that are not making the shift like me to take themselves out of the club and still want to travel and still want to tour and sell records and so on, it’s taking them out of a job,” Hollister said.

As of right now, the state of Vermont is not mandating performance venues to close. But Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lindsay Kurrle says they are offering recommendations, such as requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

“We do see some businesses around the state that have already implemented this and they share that it’s going well and that it does provide a safer environment for their customers, but peace of mind for their employees which is also an important piece of this at this time,” Kurrle said.

Kurrle says the state hopes to continue to refrain from imposing restrictions that limit the operation of local event venues, as well as the freedom of those who want to attend shows.

“The people who feel comfortable being in that environment are generally going to choose to go. And for the people that are not comfortable are generally, probably, going to sit it out for now,” Kurrle said. “Vermonters, again, have learned so much and they’re assessing their own risk and their willingness to go into these environments.”

The New England Musicians Relief Fund (NEMRF) is stepping up efforts to help professional musicians who are struggling financially.

“Ticket sales have stalled, shows are being canceled, and professional musicians who depend on this time of the year to make the bulk of their income are left feeling like once again the rug has been pulled from under them,” said Gabriel Langfur Rice, trombonist and president of the New England Musicians Relief Fund. “Medical bills, rent, child care, studio time, and the bills that were put off during the pandemic are adding up to a financial crisis for too many of our colleagues.”

NEMRF is now accepting applications from musicians who are losing work.

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