After Gov. Tim Walz’s recommendations Friday to cap crowd sizes at 250 people in Minnesota to limit the spread of the coronavirus, music venues around the Twin Cities announced plans to close for at least the next two to three weeks, including First Avenue nightclub and all its sister venues.
All concerts in the First Ave main room, Palace Theatre, Fine Line, Turf Club, 7th St. Entry and Fitzgerald Theater — including the latter’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration Tuesday with Gaelic Storm — have been postponed or canceled through the end of March.
The Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis called off all performances through April 15. The Armory made an announcement to follow Walz’s guidelines “for the next 30 days.” The Parkway Theater called off all events through March 27.
By mid-day Saturday, Live Nation’s Minneapolis venues, the Fillmore and the Varsity, postponed all remaining March shows that the performers themselves had not already put off. The Dakota then announced all shows through March 26 are on hold.
"We might be going dark, but we aren't going silent," the Dakota's co-owners promised. "We will be in touch."
At least a few smaller music hubs such as Icehouse, the Hook & Ladder, the 331 Club and Crooners appear ready to continue live programming in the coming weeks, but with limited crowd sizes and increased safety measures. Some of their performances have also already been canceled.
“Currently, we are continuing and leaving it up to the artist, and then taking extra sanitary precautions,” Icehouse talent booker Diane Miller said.
In its somber announcement Friday night, First Ave staff cited the proposed limitations announced by Walz and Minnesota Department of Health officials in a peaceful state of emergency declaration on Friday afternoon.
“As much as First Avenue and our associated venues hate to turn the sound down and dim the lights, it is time to press pause on upcoming concerts and events,” the announcement read. The club's in-house restaurant and bar the Depot Tavern will remain open with normal hours, though.
First Ave asked its customers to consider donations to the Twin Cities Community Trust to offset the coronavirus shutdown’s “disproportionate impact on the music and event industry workforce—especially those individuals who rely on gigs to pay their bills.” The nonprofit was created over a decade ago to assist injured or sidelined stage crew, bartenders and musicians (twincitiesmusiccomunitytrust.org).
First Ave has great incentive to reopen by early April: The club is hosting its first batch of 50th anniversary concerts April 2-5 with the Hold Steady, Golden Smog, Neko Case. For now, those shows are still scheduled.
Since opening night with Joe Cocker on April 3, 1970, when the club was named the Depot, First Ave has only been closed for extended weeks four times, including most recently for a structural makeover in 2015 after pieces of ceiling fell during a concert. (One other closure there was for the filming of “Purple Rain” in December 1983.)
The Cedar Cultural Center similarly cited the newly announced department of health guidelines in its closing announcement: “We can’t meet these guidelines within the structure of our space,” its statement read.
For now, the 450-capacity nonprofit Cedar hopes to return in time for mid-April dates by Laura Marling, Tennis and the Gibson Brothers. Some of its April artists, such as the Residents, have already canceled their tours through the spring.
After already postponing its annual Celebration next month to June for other reasons, Paisley Park announced that will move the annual multi-day Prince tribute festival to the fall. Tours at the studio-turned-museum will still be offered as scheduled.
At the Hook & Ladder — another nonprofit venue in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood — Friday night’s events could be a good indication of how it and other smaller music spaces may operate in the coming weeks: Its bigger show with Mango Jam was postponed, but a smaller gig by Drew Peterson in its Mission Room went on as planned.
“And about 75 people were happy that was the case,” said Hook & Ladder director Chris Mozena, whose position for now is to “support the decisions of the artists we serve.”
He added, though, “Who knows what the next week will bring?”