Caffe Lena announced on Wednesday that its bringing back audience members, albeit in limited numbers.
“We’re taking it in baby steps, starting with 25% capacity,” said Caffe Lena Executive Director Sarah Craig. “Live performance venues were the first to shut down, and they’re the last to reopen. It’s essential for the future of music that we work out a way to open stages safely. Our goal is to meet and surpass the NYS Health Department guidelines.”
While Caffe Lena’s seats have been empty since March, its stage has not. It was deemed an essential business for purposes of broadcasting live performances and often hosted virtual concerts featuring one or two musicians.
Starting Tuesday, the coffeehouse will bring back audiences for a performance by the ensemble of the New York City Ballet Orchestra.
Traditionally, Tuesday would mark the opening night of the NYCB’s residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which was canceled due to COVID-19. However, five musicians from the Ballet Orchestra will perform Franz Schubert’s Trout Quintet in honor of it.
Twelve parties will be allowed in the venue and the performance will also be streamed online.
“Recognizing that many of our patrons are not in a position to return to public gatherings, we’re becoming a kind of hybrid live-stream and live-audience venue,” explained Craig. “From now on, our headline concerts will be available in real-time via Vimeo for a small fee, and our community programs and shows featuring local amateur talent will be streamed on YouTube for free.”
Seating has been rearranged so that there will be couches for groups of two to four people and tables will be reserved for parties of two. Single tickets will not be offered at this time.
“It’s not great for the bottom line to have just a quarter of our capacity, but the intimacy and comfort is going to be amazing. It’s really going to be like sitting in Lena’s living room,” said Carolyn Shapiro, Caffe Lena’s house manager.
Following Tuesday’s show, there will be a Bluegrass Night on Wednesday, a performance by the Aztec Two-Step on Friday, July 17 and Saturday, July 18, followed by the Erin Harpe: Country Blues Duo on Sunday, July 19.
“Throughout the shut down we were able to generate paychecks for musicians and keep the venue afloat by streaming our shows live online. We use three cameras and a professional audio-visual crew. Many have asked if we’ll keep doing it, and the answer is yes. We even launched an online School of Music that is fully enrolled and growing fast. In a way, we’ve outgrown our little listening room and our customers are now spread out across the country,” Craig said.
For more information visit caffelena.org.