COLUMBIA, S.C. — Starting Monday, August 3, entertainment businesses like theaters and concert halls can reopen in South Carolina.
The Koger Center for the Arts in Downtown Columbia is gearing up for a comeback. Koger Center director Nate Terracio says they never expected to be closed for this long.
“We all thought it’d be a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months. So, the governor announcing they were reopening theaters was really exciting, but it came as a little bit of a shock. We found out the same way everyone else did.”
The Koger Center has been closed since March 13.
Auditoriums, amphitheaters, concert halls and performing art centers are just a few of the entertainment venues that can now reopen in South Carolina. They must, however, follow safety guidelines including:
- Limiting capacity to 50% or 250 people, whichever is less;
- Requiring both staff and guests to wear masks;
- Implementing social distancing and cleaning protocols; and
- Ending alcohol sales after 11 pm.
“The number of 250 as the maximum capacity for theaters that the governor laid out is about 11% of our seating,” Terracio says. “But the irony is that is about our capacity with social distancing. So, in order to keep people safe, I think it’s a good, smart decision to start with a smaller number of patrons and start with very small events.”
The Koger Center has 2,256 seats. They don’t have anything on the calendar yet until November, but hope to book a few local acts before then.
The Newberry Opera House, a much smaller venue with a total of 426 seats, has their first show on August 15.
“We’re just ready to have people home. As I always say from the stage, 'Welcome home!' We’re just happy to have people back,” executive director Molly Fortune says.
The Newberry Opera House has also been closed since mid-March. Fortune says they’ve rehearsed their reopening plan and are ready go.
“Our staff will be wearing gloves and masks, and we’ll not be touching your tickets. We’ll put it on a tray and scan it and we’ll have guests seated. We’ve reconfigured our auditorium so no one has to climb over anybody.”
Fortune hopes events at the opera house will offer people some happiness and hope during these trying times.