Businesses speak out: Ticketed Music Events Banned in Updated NYS Coronavirus Guidelines

Ticketed music events will now be banned at bars, restaurants, and similar venues in the state of New York due to new coronavirus guidelines for Stage 3 and 4 reopening for licensed on premise establishments released on August 18, 2020. These new guidelines prohibit these establishments in NY from offering live music that customers pay for separately. 

The Hollow, Albany – photo by Zach Culver.

Not only do they prohibit ticketing music events but prohibit any events where a patron has to buy a ticket. On top of that it prohibits venues from advertising live entertainment. These new guidelines will bring all events that have been planned by venues to a screeching halt. Music will be allowed at establishments but has to be “incidental” music according to the rules posted in Q&A format on the State Liquor Authority website. Incidental music basically means music can be at performed at establishments but it can’t be advertised and promoted as a reason people should go to the establishment.  

“Restaurants and other on premises food and beverage establishments that have a license through the SLA are only allowed to offer on-premise music if their license certificate specifically allows for such activity (i.e., live music, DJ, recorded, etc.). A manufacturer that has an on premises license also must assure that its on premises license certificate specifically allows for the type of music it is offering.  A manufacturer without a separate on premises license may offer music unless its license certificate specifically prohibits such music. 

If offering music, indoors or out, all relevant aspects of the respective Department of Health guidance dining must be followed, e.g., patrons should not be standing except for necessary reasons (e.g., restroom, entering/exiting), standing patrons should wear face coverings, etc.   Performers should be at least 12 feet from patrons. 

All other forms of live entertainment, such as exotic dancing, comedy shows, karaoke etc., are not permissible currently regardless of phase. 

Additionally, please note that only incidental music is permissible at this time.  This means that advertised and/or ticketed shows are not permissible.  Music should be incidental to the dining experience and not the draw itself.” 

New York State Phase 3/4 Guidelines for Licensed On-Premises Establishments Answer for “Can I have live entertainment or a DJ in my indoor or outdoor dining area?”

This new coronavirus guidelines will disproportionately hurt musicians and venue operators. Many musicians depend on ticketed events for income. Many bars and venues depend on special music events to pay the bills. According the New York Upstate article Julie Leone, who is co-owner of The 443 Social Club & Lounge on Burnet Avenue in Syracuse had spoken to a State Liquor Authority enforcement officer August 18 and, “Was told the agency could automatically suspend the liquor licenses for any venues found to be advertising shows. That seems to be different from regular enforcement, in which officers physically visit the venues to verify non-compliance.”

To many, this guideline seems shocking, unfair, and far out of left field. It will effectively shut down many establishments again that have only recently been able to reopen. These guidelines were implemented with the intention to try to keep people from mingling for prolonged periods of time to help contain the spread of the virus by Governor Andrew Cuomo and other state officials but to musicians and venue operators it feels like an attack on the music industry. 

Funk n’ Waffles, Syracuse – photo by Josh Davis.

Dave Ehmann, owner and founder at Adirondack Independence Music Festival elaborated on his feelings about this implementation of these guidelines on his Facebook page saying, “I don’t know about anyone else but I feel like someone needs to hear enough is enough with this bullshit. This is nothing more than a straight up attack on the music industry. Why aren’t we yelling louder and pushing back? It’s gone way past being safe into straight up nonsense. Peaceful protests are in order here.” 

The Haunt, Ithaca – photo by Casey Martin

Adam Gold, owner of Syracuse’s well know Funk ‘n Waffles gave his two cents on the new guidelines saying, “I was under the impression these were the regulations anyways. For me it was more of a reminder: ‘By the way, you still can’t do anything (music-wise). We aren’t currently having any indoor dining, even with it being technically allowed for several weeks now. It seems the one thing experts tell you to avoid doing is being near a bunch of strangers in a building for more than an hour.’”

Jarrett Hartstone, promoter at Hartstone Productions, feels that safety is paramount and guidelines should not limit live music performances.

Having closely followed this entire pandemic since the beginning, I fully believe in the need for reopening guidelines in order to keep people safe and control the spread of COVID-19.  That said, I think that this latest order by the State and SLA saying that establishments can’t advertise live music and that it has to be “incidental” takes it step too far.  

As long as an establishment is operating within the safety guidelines (ie; maintaining social distancing, requiring face coverings, frequently disinfecting, even making people remain seated at tables if need be), there is no reason why they can’t safely host live music and advertise it to help generate business to their already reduced-capacity establishment.  

While safety measures are indeed critical to controlling the spread of the virus, so is the need to give businesses (in this case musicians, music venues, bars and restaurants) a fighting chance to survive. 

If an establishment isn’t operating within the safety guidelines, by all means, issue a violation.  But the focus should be on whether or not they are operating safely, which has nothing to do with advertising and hosting a particular band.

Jarrett Hartstone, Hartstone Productions

Corey Rossoff, owner of the Monopole in Plattsburgh, feels awful for musicians and bands who rely on live performances for income. He divulged on this saying, “I feel bad for all the musicians. We have cancelled all of our live music due to social distancing being impossible with a band playing. Everyone wants to be near the stage. We cancelled open mic because of all different people having to share instruments. We don’t even have the upstairs where bands play even open. With no end in immediate site I just have told bands there is no sense booking anything at this point. We have the downstairs open at reduced capacity at this time. This was even before this information was emailed to us from the SLA a couple of days ago. We don’t charge covers when we do have live music but under this ruling we could not even have any live music. So as I said I don’t know what avenue all the musicians have to make an income so I feel awful for all the many bands everywhere.”

If you are part of an independent music scene in New York State and would like to comment on this story, email

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