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The Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda (File photo)
The Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda (File photo)

Riviera, local officials advocate for safe reopening of live music venues


Fri, Sep 18th 2020 04:25 pm

The Riviera Theatre held a press conference Thursday afternoon with New York State Sen. Robert Ortt and other local elected officials to urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reopen live music venues. 

Ortt said, “The Riviera Theater has worked extensively with the Niagara County Health Department and has developed a plan to ensure a safe way to reopen the theater for shows and concerts. The governor has no problem reopening NBC studios in New York City – a COVID hotspot, yet, he continues to crush small community cultural centers like the Riviera Theatre with his broad executive orders. Unfortunately, Democrats in the State Legislature refuse to stand up for small theaters' best interests in the communities they represent. The executive orders keeping live music venues closed should be lifted, and local municipalities should work with local businesses to reopen safely.”

Riviera Theatre Executive Director David Fillenwarth said, “We represent an entertainment industry which accounts for the loss of 12 million jobs nationwide to the COVID-19 virus. There is the real possibility that 90% of all independent venues may close permanently.

“In New York state, we were led to believe that when phase four of reopening arrives and the curve has been flattened, there will be a plan in place. Needless to say … we’re still in the dark.

“I’ve reached out to Gov. Cuomo and his team twice in hope of receiving funding for the arts or some insight for reopening procedures. As I stand here in front of you, there still is no response.

“Today we are here to announce that the Riviera Theatre has developed a safety plan and are joined in support from the Niagara County Health Department and area elected officials, including State Sen. Robert Ortt. This safety plan to reopen has been modified and approved based on recommendations from the Niagara County Department of Health. We will implement this plan on Sept. 25-26 when local favorites, The Chicago Authority, will perform live on our stage at 25% capacity.

“We can no longer be ignored. We need answers on reopening or funding for the entertainment industry. It’s time to turn on the lights.”

The Chicago Authority member Rick Johnston said, “Live music is not incidental. Live entertainment is vital to a healthy society. Live performances allow people to escape, to forget about their troubles, and hopefully smile and laugh for a few hours. For the people who work in the live entertainment industry, it is also a matter of survival. We musicians and technicians in the Chicago Authority band are very fortunate, because we don't have to rely solely on income from performing. We all live and work right here in Western New York. But for hundreds of thousands of musicians, technicians, and others in the live event industry in New York state – including thousands in Western New York – that is not the case. Almost all of these people have been out of work since March, and many have not had any income at all since the end of July.

“Music venues are open and operating according to safety guidelines in Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts and other states. We believe that it is now time to reopen live music venues in New York state – properly supported by advertising and ticket sales – so all of the people who make their livings in the live event industry can get back to what they love to do, and to again enable them to provide for their families. We are looking forward to helping the Riviera Theatre prove that live entertainment can be presented safely, and within the guidelines established and approved by the Department of Health.” 

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