Sullivan County residents now accustomed to seeing closed doors and printed notices that detail limited business hours or services while strolling past storefronts were met with updated signage and more mobility Monday as New Hampshire moved into Phase 2 of the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force plan earlier this week.

The new regulations, which in part allow restaurants in six counties — Belknap, Carroll, Cheshire, Coos, Grafton and Sullivan — to operate at 100% capacity by means of indoor and outdoor seating, offer restaurants impacted by the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic the opportunity to provide customers with the typical indoor dining experience many have been craving just as much as the food for the past three months.

But the updated guidelines don’t stop at restaurants. Also included in the reform of government declarations on the topic of COVID-19 are bowling alleys, entertainment centers and, as of June 1, gyms.

Setting the stage

With the stage inside the Claremont Opera House still quiet for the indeterminable future, the Opera House Board recently announced it will offer outdoor concerts instead.

In partnership with the city and the Arrowhead Recreation Area, the Claremont Opera House is resuming its pop-up events on Arrowhead’s lawn, beginning on Saturday, June 27, with a performance by local dixieland band Firehouse 6.

“We just know that people are clamoring to have an outdoor event they can go to and enjoy a concert,” Board Secretary Felicia Brych Dalke told the Eagle Times on Friday.

These pop-up concerts are smaller events that showcase genres of music, like jazz and classical, outside those typically booked at the Claremont Opera House. The board launched the pop-up concerts in January and had planned to hold one per month until the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic forced the Claremont Opera House to close.

The Claremont Opera House worked with City Manager Ed Morris, Parks and Recreation Director Mark Brislin and Police Chief Mark Chase to develop a plan that meets public health guidelines. Concert-goers will have assigned spaces, each separated to meet state requirements for social distancing. Beer and wine service will be available within a sectioned-off “wet area” along Arrowhead’s outside porch. There will also be a non-drinking, “dry area” section.

Unlike the previous pop-up concerts, children will be allowed to attend the outdoor concerts, provided that an adult stays with the minors in the dry area at all times.

Additionally, concert-goers can pre-order a meal from Sweetfire BBQ, who also manages the Claremont Opera House’s beer and wine services, Dalke said. Orders placed with Sweetfire by the end of Thursday will be available for pickup at the show.

Seating areas are differently sized to accommodate group numbers ranging from two to 10 people, according to Dalke. Concertgoers are required to wear masks when going to concessions or travelling outside one’s seating area as an added safety precaution. Masks will be available to those who do not have one.

Despite Arrowhead’s larger event space, Dalke said they intend to keep attendance relatively small for the concert.

“We’re purposely keeping it small,” Dalke said. “If we sell out all of the seating areas, we could have anywhere from 60 people to 120… We’re going to start small and learn from this event, and we can fine tune it and make changes if we need to.”

Tickets for the show are $15 for adults and $5 for children and students. The concert is free for Silver and Gold level members of the Claremont Opera House.

“We’re keeping the prices at a lower rate than what we do for our bigger concerts,” Dalke said. “We just want to cover our costs.”

Unfortunately, the state’s pandemic restrictions will make indoor concerts fiscally difficult, Dalke said.

“The seating is going to be significantly restricted and we’re not going to be able to sell as many tickets as in the past,” Dalke said. “And because of that we’re not going to be able to bring in the bigger name bands because we won’t be able to cover the cost, unless we have sponsors to sponsor the event.”

Uncertainty about sponsorship and advertising revenues in the coming months makes it additionally difficult to confirm upcoming shows, Dalke said. The Claremont Opera House recently lost one of its high-drawing shows — the Fleetwood Mac tribute band, Tusk — because the band couldn’t hold the date any longer.

Aid from the CARES Act stimulus helped the Claremont Opera House offset some loss of advertising revenues, but overall the Claremont Opera House has had to push back many planned upgrades, including the addition of lighting and a big screen that would have allowed the Claremont Opera House to show films.

But for the present, the Claremont Opera House hopes the summer pop-up shows will offer “something different” for patrons and members, in a safe but enjoyable space, Dalke said.

“And hopefully this is the first of many successful events that we partner with the city and Arrowhead to hold there,” said Dalke.

To order tickets or learn more about Friday’s concert, please visit the Claremont Opera House website at http://www.claremontoperahouse.info.

This article is a continuation of a piece published in the June 20 Weekend edition of the Eagle Times.

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