Socially Distant Live Music Returns to One New York City Venue

A venue in a unique position makes an interesting move

Joshua Henry at Open Jar Studios.
Joshua Henry at Open Jar Studios.
Roberto Araujo

Is there a way to safely hold live musical events while the pandemic still rages? In the UK, a new outdoor venue has sprung up offering groups of people the ability to sit socially distanced from one another. There’s also been a rise in the number of streaming concerts being produced — and a few instances of live music that hasn’t adhered to social distancing guidelines.

A new report from Ben Yakas at Gothamist explores a New York City venue which has begun experimenting with socially distanced indoor concerts. That Open Jar Studios, located in Times Square, is able to do this at all is due to a number of factors: because they don’t serve alcohol, they’re not considered a bar — but neither are they technically a theater. And because of their work with the Broadway Relief Project, they have a strict set of safety protocols in place.

What does that translate to? Well, they’ve been holding a number of concerts in the space, each one a benefit for a different organization, from August 21 through September 6. Artists who have played include Joshua Henry, Kate Baldwin and The Sopranos alumnus Vinny Pastore, along with his band Gangster Squad.

Each concert features a maximum of 48 attendees, who are seated 20 feet from the stage. Plexiglass barriers separate each audience member from their neighbors, masks are mandatory and temperature checks take place before entering the venue.

Jeff Whiting, Open Jar’s president and CEO, explained the logistics to Gothamist. “We have been told that as long as we are operating at 50% occupancy, we are allowed to operate,” Whiting said. “In fact, we are operating this event at 16% occupancy.”

It’s a unique situation, to be sure. Could it also be another way live music endures, at least temporarily? The ticket prices for this series of concerts ranged from $45 to $90; whether or not this approach is scalable remains to be seen.

Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.