Long-darkened North Bay nightclubs, theaters, attractions set pandemic reopening dates
The blues of this past year with the COVID-19 crisis have failed to take away the hopes of getting more greenbacks by nightclub owners and managers of attractions.
Just ask Blue Note Napa Managing Director Ken Tesler and Uptown Theater General Manager Erica Simpson, who have experienced some of the worst business economic conditions brought about by this horrendous past year.
Tesler’s nightclub on Main Street closed, alongside the majority of entertainment businesses statewide, and continue to be shuttered. But that hasn’t stopped him from dreaming big for the coming year — outside, for starters.
May concerts return?
Tesler told the Business Journal he hopes to get people going back to concerts managing weekend events on the grounds of Charles Krug Winery, while following county protocols beginning May 21. He expects to follow up the weekend event with Memorial Day concerts by Los Lobos and Pink Martini.
Of course, all this depends on control of the virus and the progress of vaccinations.
“A lot of people have been missing (the Blue Note). We’re going to be back, and there’s pent-up demand. We’re hoping for sold-out shows,” he said.
The optimism represents a far cry from a business manager who lost “100%” of revenue this past year, relying on reserves, a GoFundMe page, Paycheck Protection Program funding and previous ticket sales in which customers didn’t ask for refunds for cancelled shows. It’s also helped to be a part of a cohesive effort in a North Bay venue coalition to share notes and support in order to keep nightclubs surviving.
The big takeaway for Tesler in this past year revolves around his renewed appreciation for the aspects of life that matter, singling out spending time with his wife, staff and supportive patrons as well as the sheer joy of the arts and outdoors. To Tesler, life is about special moments now that he won’t take for granted.
“You take something as monumental as last year. We’ve learned to appreciate each other,” he said. “Like I miss ordering burritos and talking about the show the night before with my staff. I’m used to being in the office and calling out in a bullpen environment with that personal connection,” he said. “I’ve determined on many levels — personally and business wise — that I am lucky to not have lost family members, friends and not gotten sick myself.”
His big hope is for a vaccinated public.
In the meantime, he has pledged “to take lemons and make lemonade.”
He’s not alone. Despite placing Simpson’s life with the Napa landmark — the Uptown Theater — on hold, she’s tentatively anticipating a rousing opening perhaps late summer or early fall.
There’s no doubt life has been difficult since nightclubs went dark a year ago. More than 50 shows were cancelled during shutdown orders. She shares the joke “we really miss cancelling plans with you.”
Like Tesler, she believes there is a light at the end of the tunnel — one that has rekindled her appreciation for the finer, simpler things we take for granted. She recalled being invited to the South-by-Southwest music and tech festival and turning it down.
“I’ll never turn down invites again,” she said.
Simpson plans to embrace life as it comes. This includes putting much effort returning the theater to its historic glory.
“We want to get back. And we know it’s going to feel as natural when we go back as it did a year ago,” she said, adding the return should be better than ever.
The Uptown Theater marquee that hovers over downtown Napa says it all: “See you in 2021.”
Coming attractions: Movie theaters return
Taylor Green, general manager of Reading Cinema in Rohnert Park, told the Business Journal he’s extremely enthusiastic about opening up his southern Sonoma County theater with 16 screens on March 19.
The movie theater has been reeling since a closure that’s lasted over a year. Its more than 40 employees were laid off, but for its reopening, 19 have returned.
And Green emphasized there’s more to celebrate with the theater’s reopening. As a way of turning back the clock, the cinema will throw open its doors with family features like “Tom & Jerry” going for $8.50 a ticket.
“That was like a matinee ticket price in the mid 2000s,” Green said. “We’re so happy to provide this to the community.”
Green expects a promising year filled with movie goers that have pent-up demand to view a film on the big screen — complete with their signature movie popcorn and Milk Duds.