RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The news of Governor Ralph Northam’s upcoming ease of social restrictions is prompting excitement among local recreation industry professionals, however, not all will reap the benefits equally.
Empty stadiums and shuttered music halls have collected dust for over a year, but on April 1, new statewide guidance will become effective; contributing to the slow rebound toward a sense of normalcy.
“To be very clear, we are not simply throwing the doors open or as Dr. [Anthony] Fauci said this morning, ‘we don’t want to just flip a switch.’ These are measured changes,” the governor said during a news conference, announcing the restriction rollback.
Northam will remove the 1,000-person cap for outdoor entertainment venues, though a 30% occupancy limit will remain in place. For indoor venues, the governor will increase the maximum attendance from 250 to 500 people or 30% capacity, whichever is less.
For recreational sports, including high school athletics, Northam is still limiting indoor and outdoor venues to 30% capacity. However, a maximum of 500 spectators will now be allowed outdoors, and 100 people indoors–an increase from the current 250 person cap outdoors and the 25 person limit indoors.
“Every step back towards normalcy is like a celebration,” Richmond Flying Squirrels Vice President and COO Todd “Parney” Parnell told 8News.
“We have six short weeks to ramp up our part-time employees,” Parnell said, noting the team will be able to fill a portion of The Diamond after one year of minor league baseball was left on the bench.
“It’s going to look different, you can’t do the spacing and it looked the same, it’s going to look different. There are fan experiences that are going to be different,” Parnell said.
But for other events, like live music at small indoor venues—it’s a different ball game.
Lucas Fritz, co-owner of The Broadberry and The Camel music and restaurant venues said, “Unfortunately because you still have to take social distancing into account…” [we] “won’t really be able to increase any amount of occupancy.”
Fritz said outdoor pod-style concerts run by his team, and keeping The Camel restaurant open with 50% capacity is their best bet, until more people get vaccinated.
“So, until we’ve gotten to some sense of herd immunity or until restrictions have been relaxed to a sense, that people can enjoy concerts standing and not seated at tables,” Fritz said.