Illinois Quad-Cities Performance Venues Allowed to Fully Reopen Today
The day that Illinois Quad-Cities theaters and concert venues have long waited for arrives today, on Friday, June 11 – when they can remove Covid-related restrictions on audience capacity.
Today, the state of Illinois is moving into Phase 5 of the pandemic, which lifts all limits on indoor and outdoor festivals, concerts and other
live performances, which will affect many Q-C venues.
“We are thrilled to be able to go back to full capacity in both venues. Nothing but a positive for us,” said Brett Hitchcock, director of audience development for Circa ’21 and The Speakeasy, Rock Island.
In a recent Circa e-mail, the theater reminded patrons that after June 11 all tables will be available for purchase; staggered arrivals will not be necessary; but they will continue with serving plated meals for now.
“We will be following CDC guidelines on masks, meaning they are only required for those who have not been vaccinated,” the Circa e-mail said. “For those who have been vaccinated, masks are optional.
“We are hard at work updating your existing reservations to honor table or row requests, and we will be moving larger parties to adjacent tables (without that empty table between you),” the dinner theater wrote. “There’s no need to call if you made a request because the Ticket Office has that information.
“We know it’s been a long 14 months for everyone. Thanks for weathering the storm with us!” the email said.
Lora Adams, co-owner of the 60-seat Black Box Theatre, said that for their next show, the full theater will be available. “Also, masks for those not inoculated, but others can choose to wear or not to wear them,” she said.
Bruce Duling, Playcrafters board president, said recently he didn’t expect a big impact on audience attendance starting Friday, but hope that more people come to the shows.
“Last weekend was a good beginning for us with ‘Princeton’s Rage,’ but we’ve a long way to go to get our numbers up and we’re hoping this weekend will bring even more patrons to our non-profit theatre to help us keep the lights on,” Duling said by e-mail.
“It’s great news,” Brent Tubbs, co-owner of The Spotlight Theatre, 1800 7th Ave., Moline, said Thursday. Their first musical since February 2020 – “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” – opened last weekend, with an average of 80 in attendance in the nearly 600-seat theater. Tubbs previously put an audience limit of 150 for the space.
“There are two phases to reopening,” he said Thursday. “The first is being able to reopen and the second is getting people to come out.”
Last weekend, Spotlight was among four Illinois-side theaters with live productions – including “Hate Mail” at Black Box Theatre, 1623 5th Ave., Moline; “Princeton’s Rage” at Playcrafters, 4950 35th Ave., Moline; and “Beehive” at Circa ’21, 1828 3rd Ave., Rock Island.
“Everybody is struggling to get an audience,” Tubbs said, noting patrons in the Q-C are notorious for waiting until the last minute to get tickets. He said about 50 seats were sold on opening night alone last June 4. “It’s hard to gauge what this weekend is going to look like,” he said, noting the state removing restrictions should boost attendance.
Scott Mullen, executive director of the TaxSlayer Center, 1201 River Drive, Moline, said that assuming things stay on track, “and we will be allowed to fully re-open without restrictions after June 11 as the governor has indicated,” he looks forward to hosting concerts again while continuing to follow federal and state health guidance.
“At this point, our 1st major arena event will be One Night of Queen on July 23 followed by Smurkchella Re-Loaded featuring Lil Durk on Aug. 1 and the Doobie Brothers including the return of Michael McDonald on Aug. 28,” Mullen said by e-mail.
“All shows are set up with normal seating configurations without the need for pods or distancing,” he said. “We have taken the necessary steps to re-open responsibly making sure our employees and guests are coming back to a safe environment.
“The decision on masks will be made at a later date based on where things stand, but our hope is that enough people will have been vaccinated and case levels are down low enough to allow us to return to business as usual by the time we have our first major event on July 23,” Mullen wrote.
The 11,000-seat arena director worked over the past year with the International Association of Venue Managers as their director of arenas, to get Congress to include more venues included in the federal relief bill.
As of early June, Shuttered Venue Operator Grants (SVOG) totaling $54.2 million had been awarded to just 50 recipients, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) reported.
The awards were the first to be announced for the SVOG program, and they come more than five months after the program was created by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act. That bill, which was signed into law in late December, appropriated $15 billion to the SVOG program, which received another $1.25 billion after the American Rescue Plan Act became law March 11.
The grants reported by the SBA represent only a small fraction of the funding requests the SVOG program has received. Venue operators and other eligible entities have submitted 13,783 applications, requesting a total of $11.4 billion in funding, according the SBA’s public report on the SVOG program. That appears to leave close to $5 billion available even if all the submitted applications are approved.
The SVOG program provides eligible applicants with grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue, up to a maximum of $10 million.
“As of now, it’s a very slow process,” Kyle Peters, promoter for The Rust Belt, 533 12th Ave., East Moline, said Thursday. “For something approved at the end of 2020, it’s a good thing we were not holding our breath waiting on it. Ownership was optimistic, and we’re happy to be definitely getting the venue back open.”
“It’s been a long 15, 16 months of being shut down,” he said. “Ownership and management are looking forward to bringing the Quad-Cities great live music again. It’s important to make sure states have enough capacity — that was some of the issues, some states were opening earlier than Illinois and that makes routing tours very difficult.
“That’s why we haven’t seen a lot of activity until now,” Peters said. “They don’t have to skip an entire state, and allows those tours to open up again. From the guys loading in, to food vendors, ushers, promoters, police, security – a lot of jobs are impacted when the entertainment industry was interrupted the way it was.”
The Rust Belt is welcoming Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor this weekend for two sold-out shows Saturday and Sunday, but they were capped at 600 maximum in the 4,000-person standing venue.
“We’re working with management and they’re keeping the tour the same,” Peters said. “They sold that way.”
Sevendust is playing the East Moline venue June 29 and that has limited capacity as well, capped at 1,500 – with tickets having gone on sale May 28, Peters said.
“We knew things were going in that direction, even though the venue is 4,000,” he said of keeping capacity limits. For the rest of the summer, the capacity will be opened, Peters said.
“Every show is different for us, whether we do a full house, or a restricted one,” he said. “It seems like from all the conversations we’ve had with management, agencies, the third and fourth quarter is when everything is moving forward and people are basically going off their legal capacities. We’re definitely looking forward to that.”
The Moline and Rock Island live theaters will have competition online this weekend from Quad City Music Guild, 1584 34th Ave., Moline. It
has filmed its latest production, “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” which will be available only online – to be streamed June 11-13 and tickets are on sale at qcmg.booktix.com.
Music Guild will return to in-person performances in July and August, with “Mamma Mia!” and “Matilda,” in the 535-seat theater.
Hillary Erb, QCMG spokeswoman, said that regarding Covid restrictions, “we are continuing to follow the CDC and state guidelines as outlined by the Governor.”
The professional summer stock company, Mississippi Bend Players, is scheduled to present the two-actor play, “Red,” June 17-20, at Brunner Theatre Center, 3750 7th Ave., Rock Island, at Augustana College.
Kirby Stockwell, Augustana spokeswoman, said this week she wasn’t sure how the Illinois reopening will affect their audience capacity.
“We expect an announcement from our Augustana Strong taskforce after the June 11th update,” she said. “If I had to warrant a guess, I would think there will still be some restrictions but far less than there are currently.”
In Rock Island County (as of Thursday), there have been 15,234 total cases of Covid, and 369 deaths, while Scott County has seen 20,273 cases and 244 Covid-related deaths. Thirty-seven percent of Rock Island County’s population has been fully vaccinated against Covid, while 43 percent have been in Scott County.
Covid-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and widely available across Illinois, according to the state health department. Everyone aged 12 years and older should be vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as possible to keep from getting and/or spreading Covid.
For complete Illinois Phase 5 guidance for businesses and venues, visit www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/phase-5.