New York Didn't Shut Down Ticketed Concerts at Bars. They Were Never Allowed

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during the daily media briefing at the Office of the Governor of the State of New York on July 23, 2020 in New York City.

Bars in New York state are upset about a new clarification from the State Liquor Authority that prohibits ticketed live music, but the government organization says these events were never allowed in the first place.

Syracuse.com first reported on Wednesday that the SLA was no longer allowing paid concerts to take place at bars after a section of the government entity's FAQ page stated "only incidental music is permissible at this time."

Under the question of whether or not live entertainment is allowed at indoor or outdoor dining areas, the FAQ page states that "restaurants and other on premises food and beverage establishments" that have a license for live entertainment can have it, but that "music should be incidental to the dining experience and not the draw itself." The answer explains advertised and/or ticketed shows are not allowed during the current 3/4 hybrid phase of reopening the state.

Clarification from the SLA suggests these types of events have been prohibited since Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned large gatherings in March in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“This guidance is not new -- live entertainment activities, including all ticketed events, have been prohibited since New York went on PAUSE in mid-March to stop the spread of coronavirus," the SLA said in a statement provided to Billboard. "Thanks to New Yorkers’ hard work, we have achieved, and so far maintained, one of the lowest rates of infection in the country, but these high-risk gatherings would create exactly the situation we are trying to avoid, where people congregate, mingle, and create congestion at points of ingress and egress."

While bars have been allowed to reopen for indoor and outdoor dining in the current phase, patrons are still required wear face coverings and are only permitted to move from their seated areas for necessities such as going to the bathroom or entering/exiting. Dancing, bar games, karaoke and more are still prohibited at all establishments.

The crackdown also follows Cuomo's announcement that the state suspended the liquor license for an additional 16 bars after finding egregious violations of pandemic-related executive orders, bringing the total number of liquor licenses suspended during the coronavirus pandemic to 148.

"This week, after seeing an increase in establishments advertising ticketed events, the SLA clarified language on its website and proactively emailed all bars and restaurants to ensure they were aware of the months-old restrictions," the SLA statement continued. "New Yorkers need to remember we are still fighting a global pandemic -- and with dozens of states facing outbreaks, we must continue to take the threat of spreading COVID at mass gatherings seriously."

New York City is, meanwhile, operating under more severe restrictions. The city is currently in phase four of its reopening plan, which includes reopening for low-risk outdoor arts and entertainment events, media production and professional sports competitions with no fans. Indoor dining and arts and entertainment events are still prohibited.

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