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As Virginia enters Phase 3, event venues split on path forward

Health guidelines, and public demand, both major concerns
Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 11:44 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Wednesday, Virginia officially entered Phase Three of reopening. That means, among other things, major event spaces are allowed to reopen, hosting concerts and conferences for the first time in months.

There are still plenty of restrictions. At least ten feet of space needs to be maintained between performers and patrons. Any interactive exhibits or events are banned. And plans have to be in place to keep guests from bunching up in lines, among other things.

As a result, it’s a mixed bag in Roanoke: some of the area’s largest event venues are choosing to reopen, and some, like the Jefferson Center, are not.

“We have some options in the Fall, but I think they’re unlikely to go through,” said executive director Cyrus Pace.

Pace says with the social distancing requirements in place during Phase Three, opening wouldn’t make financial sense, not to mention the health risks.

“So if you took our main hall, which is 900 seats, and said that every ticketed party had to be six feet apart, we’d only be looking at 160, 170 people that could be in that hall,” he said.

The Jefferson Center isn’t alone in holding off. In a statement, a spokesperson for the Berglund Center told WDBJ7 while they have a few consumer shows coming up, “the current state of our industry indicates that most live entertainment and sports events won’t begin to gear up until after the first of the year.”

Some, however, are pushing forward.

“We’re really excited to get open. Our first event is July the 10th, coming up next Friday,” said Waynette Anderson, President of Dr Pepper Park.

Anderson says during that event, a Kenny Chesney tribute, the park will host up to 1,000 guests, the maximum now allowed by law.

“We’re taking a number of precautions to allow for social distancing, and touch free-surfaces. All of those good things,” she said.

Roanoke City’s Elmwood Park is also open for business. Officials say anyone who hosts an event there will be responsible for enforcing health and safety guidelines.

Back at the Jefferson Center, Cyrus Pace says for him, reopening will depend on two things: government guidance and consumer demand.

“And that’s the hardest part of this,” said Pace. “Many people are 100 percent sure they’re ready today, and many people are 100 percent that they’re not ready today.”

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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