Vaccination cards may be the new hot ticket as California health officials relax restrictions

Entertainment venues are rejoicing at the long-awaited thaw in COVID-19 precautions.

Friday, state health officials announced parameters for indoor events including spectator sports, concerts, conferences and weddings.

"We are just kind of wrapping our arms around the fact we have some movement, and it's a good thing," said Bill DeCarli, Music Director of Hopmonk Presents.

Hopmonk has four locations in Sonoma and Marin County, where all music shifted outdoors when the pandemic hit a year ago.

"We were rolling, then things came to a sccreeching halt and we didn't know what to do," said DeCarli.

"Now we're chomping at the bit, everyone in the industry is, we can't wait to get something going."

Seated live events such as sports and concerts will limit audience size, depending on the capacity of the location and what tier it is located in.

"Today is a really a big milestone day for getting fans back into the Chase Center," said Rick Welts, President and COO of the Golden State Warriors.

Professional teams, along with convention managers and wedding planners, have waited longer than other groups for rules to finally relax. 

"And the indoor event guidance that was issued by the state is really encouraging," added Welts.

The venues that can take most advantage of the new guidelines are those who admit only audiences that have been tested or vaccinated for COVID-19.

"We're expecting a slow, measured transition, taking people's comfort levels into consideration," said Anita Wiglesworth, Program Director for Luther Burbank Center for the Performing Arts.

The Santa Rosa campus has expansive space for  seminars, receptions and conferences- barred for many months but not much longer. 

"Nothing replaces an in-person event," said Wiglesworth, "and we have seen an increase in inquiries for our availability and what we can do with people wanting to schedule dates."

Right now the theatre lobby doubles as a vaccination site.

And when music and comedy acts do book again, they probably won't be headliners or national tours.

It doesn't make financial sense when only about 400 seats can be sold out of 1800 in the theatre.

"Capacity is a huge factor in any venue when you're determining what type of act and what you can spend," said Wiglesworth."

Restrictions on food and drink concessions will also cut into profits.  

"Still we're incredibly excited because it's a great step in the right direction," she enthused.

"We all miss this so much when you come in and you look at an empty theatre, we miss that shared experience."

As venues navigate the new rules, they also know COVID-19 numbers will continue to evolve.

"In three weeks we could be having a totally different conversation and who knows where we'll be?," posed DeCarli.

He admitted though, the prospect of checking people's vaccination status is disconcerting.

"We card people all the time to make sure they're of age to drink, but asking if they're tested or vaccinated, we don't know how that's going to work."