Bug Jar, Abilene take different paths to resuming small-scale concerts in Rochester

Around Town

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Following the vote by the New York State Senate and Assembly to remove the mandated food purchase for alcohol, the path forward is looking clearer for local music venues.

Just about a month ago, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was here at The Bug Jar. Then, he was saying that help was on the way with the Save our Stages Act.

With that possible funding the lifted mandate, The Bug Jar and Abilene Bar & Lounge are taking different approaches to reopening.

“Anything for the Bug Jar, any of the restrictions being lifted is a step in the right direction,” said Aaron Gibalski, owner of the Bug Jar, as well the Silver Iguana and Dragonfly Tavern. “(We haven’t had a show) since last March.”

The Bug Jar has been closed because without a kitchen to serve food, they could not meet that mandate. But now that it’s lifted, the next hurdle to clear is capacity restrictions.

“The better show we can put on, the more fans we can have,” Gibalski said.

And to stem the tide, Gibalski is even turning to a different plan than what Sen. Schumer was touting when he was at the Bug Jar.

“We’re leaning towards now  the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. It seems to be a better fit for everything I’m involved with. It’s a looser plan, it seems to be financially better,” he said.

Now down the road at Abilene, which has been closed since November 22nd, owner Danny Deutsch is waiting on Save our Stages funding, and also struggling with the capacity restrictions in his saloon.

“So when it was at 50%, we’re talking 25-26 people. It’s tough to present live music and stay afloat,” he said.

But is bringing his signature flair — “it’s might be alt-country, it might be folk singer, it might be worldbeat music” — to a jam-packed grand reopening schedule.

“We’ve got a show tomorrow night with The White Hot Brass Band, we can only have 38 people in here, first come first serve,” he said.

They plan to have many shows outside as possible.

The Bug Jar also said that the biggest reason they’re still afloat is from the GoFundMe that ran in 2020, while Abilene thanks the spirit of camaraderie of their regulars in their reopening efforts.

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