By Ed Masley
Two of the Valley’s most beloved music venues, Valley Bar and Crescent Ballroom, will return to full capacity this month after more than a year on the sidelines due to COVID-19.
Crescent Ballroom has been easing into active duty, hosting outdoor concerts on the patio and free shows in the lounge.
A sold-out concert by the Maine on Tuesday, Aug. 3, will be the first full-capacity show inside the actual ballroom of the 550-capacity venue on Second Avenue in downtown Phoenix.
Charlie Levy, the local promoter who co-owns both venues, says, “The Maine will be the first show where we actually open the ballroom, turn on the PA, crank the AC and have a full staff and full house. We’re so excited that we got the Maine to start off with a boom.”
The Tempe rockers will headline the first of five full-capacity August concerts that have sold out in advance.
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Valley Bar reopens with a free show on Aug. 18
The 275-capacity Valley Bar, a basement space on Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix, will reopen Wednesday, Aug. 18, with a free show by Dam-Funk, a modern funk artist, producer and DJ.
Levy says, “That’s gonna be a super-exciting way to kick things off. We’ve been waiting for almost a year and a half.”
Reassembling the teams behind those venues only makes it that much more exciting to reopen, Levy says.
“A lot of the old faces are back, which is good to see. And there are a lot of new faces. It’s a great team they’ve assembled. And we’re really looking forward to having people back in the building to hear music.”
The Valley Bar in downtown Phoenix will return at full capacity.
Angela Donato, who co-owns and manages both venues, says it’s been emotionally overwhelming watching everything come back together.
“It was empty and sad for a long time. So it’s really cool to watch it come back to life.”
The timing on reopening was based primarily on the availability of touring bands.
“If you look at the majority of bands that are touring, they’re starting to come through in August,” Levy says. “So we figured that was a good time to start.”
Club owners will keep an eye on COVID-19 conditions
The decision, based in part on guidance they were getting from the government, was made before the Delta variant caused COVID-19 cases to start moving in the wrong direction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended even vaccinated people wear masks indoors last week.
“We are opening at full capacity like the other venues in the state,” Levy says. “But we’re obviously monitoring the situation closely and we’ll make appropriate changes if the guidance or industry standards change.”
Levy says both venues have been working with NIVA, the National Independent Venue Association, and state and city health officials “to make sure that we do everything we can to keep everyone safe.”
Everyone who works at Valley Bar and Crescent Ballroom will be required to wear masks. They’re also doing weekly testing of employees and asking patrons to wear masks inside except when eating or drinking.
“As things change, our policies will probably change,” Donato says. “But we’re just counting on our community to do the right thing.”
Some clubs and venues didn’t survive pandemic shutdowns
Not every music venue that was forced to close for COVID-19 made it through those months of inactivity. A lot of places closed for good, including several Valley venues, from Club Red to Char’s Has the Blues and the Lunchbox.
Levy says he’s feeling “really fortunate” to be in the position where both venues can reopen.
He’s also thankful for the efforts of local promoter and Rebel Lounge owner Stephen Chilton, a board member at NIVA, and the elected officials in Arizona who worked so hard to pass the Save our Stages Act.
“If that didn’t happen, I doubt we’d be open,” Levy says.
“Local representatives Stanton and Gallego and senators Kelly and Sinema really got behind it in a big way and got it through. I know it went to hundreds and hundreds of venues, museums and theaters. It’s a big part of why Arizona is gonna have arts in 2021 and 2022.”