Rochester audiences finally return to live comedy and art performances

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Event, arts and entertainment venues are able to reopen in New York State. Friday, some local audiences had their first chance to sit down in front of a live performance since last year, enjoying a night of art and jokes.

Directors at Comedy at the Carlson finally were able to open the doors for a live stand-up show Friday night, after capacity increases for entertainment venues went into effect.  

“Entertainers are ready to come back to work. People were buying tickets as soon as we announced that we we’re opening, and then everything started happening. People are dying to get out,” said Mark Ippolito, director of operations at Comedy at the Carlson.

The Carlson typical seats over 300 people, but Friday could only seat 100. That’s because entertainment venues can open at 33% capacity for up to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors, a small boost to business, that barely offsets operating costs.

“We’re running in 33% or lower in our case. It’s definitely not making margins, but what we’re doing is keeping ourselves relevant,” said Ippolito.

Guests who bought tickets will be required to wear masks and will notice that all tables are six feet apart. 

It was a similar scene over at The Avenue Blackbox Theatre, who welcomed guests for a poetry and painting live event Friday night for the first time since last March.

“We think its important to make sure that we’re keeping people safe but also staying here for our community,” said Reenah Golden, founder of The Avenue Blackbox Theatre.

Small art venues like Blackbox and the Carlson are now eligible for the state’s excelsior pass, an app that can be used as proof of their COVID-19 vaccination or negative test

A spokesperson for the National Independent Venues Association was quoted questioning “access and ethical issues surrounding such programs.”

For now, venues in our area are opening without pass requirements, but it could be an option in the future.

“Which we are going to do down the road but we were like let’s just get this done with 100 people make sure we’re open safely,” said Ippolito.

The Excelsior pass is voluntary currently. Interested New Yorkers and businesses can opt in to use Excelsior Pass online.

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