As live music heats up, local venues are chilled by Covid-related challenges

Oct 6, 2021

Like at other venues in and around Asheville, managers of the Orange Peel have experienced frustration at enforcing masking protocols with the return of live music. 
Credit The Orange Peel

Live music venues in and around Asheville are back to hosting shows, but it’s anything but business as usual.

Amid evolving Covid-19 restrictions, venues have adopted their own safety protocols on top of local requirements and those required by the artists, affecting audiences, backstage crew and event staff. Still, behind the scenes, venue managers are sweating it out.

“Our biggest lesson learned here is being mask police with 2,000 people in a big, open crowd is really, really hard,” said Chris Corl, general manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Center. 

He was among a half-dozen venue managers and directors in a recent online town hall hosted by the Asheville Area Arts Council. Forum speakers reported a range of concerning realities. Among them, many touring artists are postponing or canceling appearances. About a quarter of people who purchased tickets in advance are asking for refunds and another 25 to 30 percent   simply aren’t showing up, further cutting into food and drink sales.

“Scheduling-wise, we’re canceling more than we’re adding at the moment,” Corl said. “We lost three international acts because they couldn’t get here that all pushed to 2022. We lost six shows that didn’t want to comply with our venue policies, which I thought were interesting, and we lost five or six shows at this point that canceled with Covid as the reason, but ticketing really was the problem. Ticket sales just flatlined at the start of August and nothing has really picked up yet.”

Venue operators encourage anyone thinking of attending a show to check the event website even hours before the scheduled start to see the latest protocols and check for late cancellations.