A few local wineries and tasting rooms, and restaurants have confirmed they are offering live music outdoors just in time for Valentine’s Day weekend after state health officials recently announced a return to the Blueprint for a Safer Economy monitoring system.
Concerts and performances at large venues are still prohibited, and bars, breweries and distilleries remain closed.
Under the state’s Blueprint system, Monterey County can allow outdoor live music at wineries and tasting rooms, and restaurants even though it remains in the most restrictive “widespread” or purple tier.
Performers must maintain “physical distancing” from spectators and other performers, according to state guidance. Those who are “singing, shouting, playing a wind instrument, or engaging in similar activities without a face covering” must remain at least 12 feet of distance away from spectators.
When counties move into less restrictive tiers allowing indoor dining and wine tasting, live performers are required to wear a face-covering at all times and will count against the venues’ indoor capacity.
The state promised additional live performance guidelines but that did not appear to be available on the state Department of Public Health website.
State health officials actually issued guidance allowing live music in those venues last year, in a document dated Nov. 24, though the guidance wasn’t released until early December. By that time, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations were surging and Gov. Gavin Newsom shortly afterward announced the implementation of regional stay-at-home orders triggered by ICU bed capacity and prohibiting all but essential business and activity, including outdoor dining and wine tasting.
County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno announced a local stay-at-home order a few days later even before the larger Bay Area region was ultimately required to implement the order.
Now, Folktale Winery and Vineyards and Big Sur Vineyards in Carmel Valley, and Scheid Vineyards in Greenfield are planning to offer live music by this weekend, and Tarpy’s Roadhouse and Rio Grill are also offering live music. In addition, Furey’s Old Town Barber owner Lelyn Furey said she believed downtown Salinas restaurants such as Ava’s Cantina and Portobello’s might be considering live music, including a DJ.
Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association executive director Kim Stemler said the ability to offer live music is most welcome for local wineries and tasting rooms after such a long hiatus stretching back to early last year. She added the move should help local musicians.
However, she said she expects live music would likely be limited to mostly rural wineries with patios and other outdoor areas rather than tasting rooms in town where space is more limited.
Stemler said that will likely also restrain many restaurants from offering live music due to a relative lack of outdoor space.
Meanwhile, new state guidance issued on Saturday “in response to recent judicial rulings” allows places of worship such as churches, mosques, synagogues and temples to operate indoors at reduced capacity, including religious services and cultural ceremonies such as weddings and funerals.
While the state guidance doesn’t appear to specifically mention live music, county health spokeswoman Karen Smith noted it does include a reference to “music stands” and “instruments” as among the items that must be cleaned between uses.
The guidance does advise discontinuing singing, chanting and other performances in rehearsal and during services that increase the likelihood of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.
On Thursday morning, county health reported 41,076 confirmed COVID-19 cases, an increase of 105 since Wednesday, along with 99 current hospitalizations and 301 deaths of county residents with the virus – seven more reported since Wednesday.