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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Gainesville concert venues continue to adjust amid the pandemic

After more than a year, concert venues are bringing back live music while also instituting

<p>High Dive, a Gainesville music venue, is a registered participant in Independent Venue Week.</p>

High Dive, a Gainesville music venue, is a registered participant in Independent Venue Week.

Roaring crowds, the thumping of electric bass and the sonic vigor of percussion — Gainesville venues are bringing it all back and slowly healing the local community from the shutdowns of the last year-and-a-half.

With the recent resurgence of live music, Gainesville venues are adapting to COVID-19 protocols while keeping the spirit of concerts alive.  These venues are tailoring the concert experience to the ongoing pandemic by instituting rules that will keep audiences as safe as possible. 

Different venues have taken different approaches to maintaining the balance between COVID safety and concert fun.  Many indoor venues like High Dive are requiring masks at all shows, with stricter regulations at select shows. 

For shows with a higher expected attendance at High Dive, negative COVID tests are required, or attendees can voluntarily show their proof of vaccination as an alternative. 

According to Pat Lavery, the High Dive facility and events manager, these policies are coordinated in agreement with artists, consulting lawyers and industry professionals across Florida and the nation. 

Some venues across the state have not instituted similar policies. Indie-pop duo Tennis canceled their Oct. 22 show in St. Petersburg because the venue, Jannus Live, would not allow  mandates of proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. 

“It’s really frustrating that the burden of health and safety so often falls onto the band” the band stated on their Instagram account

Lavery said the Gainesville community has mostly abided by the adjustments that have been made. Along with the community, the staff of venues like High Dive are also respecting the adjustments. According to Lavery, High Dive’s staff enjoys knowing that the business is taking extra precautions for their health. 

“Our policies have been a net positive, increasing customer confidence in safety,” Lavery wrote in an email. “Our venue is an economic driver for our community and our ability to once again host large touring concerts has boosted the community around us.”

As a force for local profit, venues are faced with the task of maintaining customer safety while simultaneously staying open. High Dive in particular gives local artists a chance to open for larger touring bands, which makes the venue a vital financial resource for the community. 

According to Lavery, for every $1 in ticket sales generated at High Dive, the surrounding businesses  gain a $12 profit on average .

Other music venues have had to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic as well. 

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The Wooly, a banquet hall in Gainesville, is a more versatile venue than its local counterparts. It has hosted concerts, art shows and film screenings, among other events. 

According to Bailey Bruce, the events director, the venue’s first music event since February 2020 was held in May. In July, the venue held their first full concert since then.

Bruce said attendees are encouraged to wear masks. The response to the return of live events, she said, was a warm welcome back. 

“Everyone was thrilled to be there. It was a great turnout and there was joy in the air.” 

 The Delta variant, which hit Gainesville at around the end of July, caused The Wooly to take another step back. But the venue has not slowed down — they’ve hosted various dance nights and one more concert at the end of September. At these events, masks were required. 

Bruce said that while the turnout was smaller, it’s impossible to pinpoint whether the reason for that was the pandemic. Many factors like the artists playing or the timing could have affected the turnout.

“The music scene seems to have taken a hit,” said Bruce. “People are finally playing more shows again, but it’s been difficult to wrangle.”

According to Bruce, around 90% of The Wooly’s events areis private parties, so the lack of concerts did not negatively affect their business. Bruce said they’re grateful for the business they’ve had, as these private events have kept them afloat while the music scene has dwindled. 

The return of live events has not only represented a financial rebound, but also a boost in morale. Venues like High Dive and The Wooly have missed the community building aspect that the local music scene brings in Gainesville. 

“The success of live music makes for a healthier community,” Lavery said. 

Bruce relayed hopeful sentiments. “It’ll come back,” she said. “It’s more of just missing it.”  

With these venues learning how to adapt to the pandemic, the Gainesville music scene is restoring the spirit of the community again. 

Contact Anushka at Follow her on Twitter @anushkadak.

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Anushka Dakshit

Anushka Dakshit is a fourth-year journalism and women’s studies major and the general reporter on the University desk of The Alligator. She started out as an arts and culture reporter at The Avenue and hopes to pursue arts and culture reporting and print magazine journalism in her career. Along with The Alligator, she is one of the Print Editorial Directors of Rowdy Magazine. In her free time, she likes to listen to old Bollywood music, read and obsess over other writers’ processes whenever she has no idea what she’s doing (which is often). 

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