One City's Pilot Program to Restart Live Entertainment

The Kennedy Center, one of six venues selected for the pilot program, on Saturday hosted its first live performance since the onset of the pandemic.

The Kennedy Center, one of six venues selected for the pilot program, on Saturday hosted its first live performance since the onset of the pandemic. Shutterstock


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Six venues in Washington D.C. will be allowed to hold live performances under strict guidance and supervision from city officials.

Six entertainment venues in Washington D.C. will be permitted to resume live concerts under a pilot program announced Friday as part of the second phase of the district’s reopening plan.

Participants in the program, which runs through the end of October, are required to provide detailed operating plans to district officials, which will be monitored for compliance with several requirements. The pilot aims to restart live music and performances “in a controlled environment that can be scaled up or down and that district officials can learn from for future guidance,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Twitter.

Participating venues were issued waivers and must comply with a host of regulations, including distributing or selling tickets in advance of any event and capping attendance at 50 people (including attendees, performers and staff). Patrons must sit at least 6 feet apart and at least 30 feet from the stage if a performer is singing, and audience members must remain seated at all times, leaving only “as necessary.” 

The six venues range in size and include City Winery, Pearl Street Warehouse and the Kennedy Center, which on Saturday hosted opera singer Renee Fleming and actress Vanessa Williams for its first live performance since the beginning of the pandemic. GALA Hispanic Theatre, another pilot participant, posted a detailed reopening plan on its website with the classic comedy El Perro del Hortelano, written in 1618 by Lope de Vega, opening on Oct. 29, the day before the program concludes. 

All six venues applied for waivers before the district moved into phase 2 and were not given advance notice of the rules of the pilot program. The district is not accepting additional applications for the initiative, but is inviting outdoor entertainment venues to resubmit plans for safe performances as part of the current phase of reopening.

Outside of the program, the Kennedy Center will also host a pop-up nightclub on its outdoor terrace, a partnership with HEIST, a high-end underground nightclub that, like most venues, closed its doors when the pandemic hit. The club, opening Oct. 3, will feature VIP cabanas that require a commitment to spend at least a thousand dollars. Other packages have minimum spending thresholds ranging from $240 to $750, according to the event’s website.

The Kennedy Center did not require a waiver to host the club. Though the venue will feature a stage with a DJ, it qualifies as an outdoor restaurant rather than a live music event, DCist reported.

“This event has no live music being performed, only music curated by DJs through a playlist,” a spokesperson for MoKi Media, the public relations company representing HEIST, told the outlet. “A waiver is only needed for live music initiatives.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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