Slowly but surely, live music is coming back to Seattle. Venues around the region have already hosted limited capacity concerts since the spring, but now the Neptune Theater in the U District announced it will open at full capacity for a series of performances this summer, starting July 10. The Neptune is the largest concert venue in Seattle to make such a move, and the revival could help bring more business to the surrounding bars and restaurants. Gov. Jay Inslee says he still plans to lift most COVID restrictions in the state by June 30, and possibly sooner, if the vaccination rate in Washington for those 16 years of age and older hits 70 percent.
Several safety protocols will still be in place when the theater does reopen: those who attend concerts must still wear face masks when not eating or drinking; anyone 16 and older must show proof of being fully vaccinated; and attendees ages 2-15 are required to show proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the show. There will also be cashless transactions for all food items and beverages, and the Neptune’s bar will operate under the King County health department’s social distancing guidelines for food establishments.
Even with the uncertainty ahead for live music this summer in general, the Neptune’s return should be good news for restaurants and bars in the theater’s vicinity, such as Thai Tom, Earl’s, and Bugis. With the large absence of students on the University of Washington’s campus over the past year (with most classes held online), establishments in the neighborhood have struggled to stay afloat, particularly during the constantly shifting regulations over the past 15 months.
It’s been estimated that there are around 12 million people across the country whose trades are tied to live events, and most of the industry’s workers were furloughed or laid off in the past year as COVID-related restrictions continue. The federal government offered a lifeline through the Save Our Stages (SOS) Act, which set aside $15 billion to support live entertainment venues, theaters, museums, and other cultural institutions.
The Seattle Theater Group (STG), a nonprofit that runs the Neptune, the Moore, and the Paramount, has applied for those funds, and a rep says the group should hear back on its application sometime within the next few weeks. STG also plans to make more announcements for upcoming concerts soon.