As RI plans to ease restrictions, music venues prepare to reopen

Business News

WAKEFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Ocean Mist without live music is like Rhode Island without clam chowder, but that’s unfortunately been the case for the popular seaside bar and nightclub since last March.

Last year, nightclubs were among the many businesses forced to close their doors as the pandemic ravaged the state’s economy.

Owner Kevin Finnegan said as time went on, The Ocean Mist adapted to the state’s mandates the best they could to stay afloat. The business decided to hone in on the restaurant side of business with live music forced to take a backseat.

“We are not a dinner club, we are not a breakfast place, in a sense,” Finnegan said. “Our base, our foundation, is as a nightclub.”

More than a year later, the state is preparing to lift a majority of the restrictions implemented during the pandemic, meaning the venue will slowly ease back into offering live music and entertainment once again.

“[We plan to] open up slowly, stay a step behind the regulations,” he said. “Just see how it all goes.”

Face masks will still be required indoors and patrons will need to stay three feet apart, even as most restrictions are lifted. That’s why Finnegan said he’s not opening up the dance floor just yet.

“I think it’d be more of a sit-down dinner club, where we have bands break into it,” he said, referencing The Ocean Mist’s first few months back.

During the state’s weekly coronavirus briefing, R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said as more people get vaccinated, the emphasis on safety is shifting to a personal responsibility.

She said this gives businesses much-needed relief and the lifted restrictions are specifically for those who have already been vaccinated.

“Anyone who is starting to embark on these activities, as we are reopening, and you re not vaccinated, engaging in any of these activities is high risk,” she said.

The Ocean Mist plans to bring larger acts back later in the summer. Finnegan said by then, he hopes the restrictions will have loosened even further.

The Strand Ballroom, another popular live music venue, tells 12 News they’re working to book shows “as quick as possible” now that they’re allowed to reopen on May 28.

But The Strand’s Garry Williams said it’s not as easy as just opening up the venue, “especially with tour logistics that still need to be made nationwide.”

“We have been working for the past year with talent agents, tour managers and directly with the artists trying to come up with a plan to get our industry back open,” Williams said. “We continue to stay optimistic, but there is still a lot of hurdles ahead of us.”

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