Local concert venues postpone events due to public health concerns
Local entertainment businesses, Penn’s Peak, the Mauch Chunk Opera House and ArtQuest of Bethlehem have postponed all events for the foreseeable future.
After a meeting with his business partner, Dan Hugos, who operates the Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe, declared that all shows have been postponed at least through the end of this month with no new dates for rescheduled events yet determined.
“We are following the guidelines of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to not hold events where there are 50 people or more,” said Hugos. “And our public health is our main concern.”
Built in 1881 adjacent to what was then known as Millionaire’s Row, the concert hall was a mecca for emerging vaudeville stars, as well as a popular gathering location for dignitaries, merchants and politicians.
Today, the Mauch Chunk Opera House seats approximately 380, and is one of the northeast’s premier listening spaces and most intimate concert venues. The House is booked with top-tier entertainers and tribute bands for most every weekend of the year.
“What we are dealing with is unique and unprecedented,” said Hugos, “and because of the necessity for social distancing, we have told our staff that it’s their option if they would like to work from their homes.”
ArtsQuest has also issued a media advisory to follow guidelines set forth by the CDC. The ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks and the Banana Factory were closed to the public effective noon on March 16 effective at least until March 31.
All programming at the buildings, including cinema screenings and comedy shows at the ArtsQuest Center and classes at the Banana Factory, have been suspended at this time.
“The health and well-being of our community is the main concern for us at ArtsQuest as we all grapple with the impact COVID-19 is having on our region, our state and our nation,” said ArtsQuest President & CEO Kassie Hilgert. “We all need to do what we can to help mitigate the spread of the virus.”
Senior Director of Communications for ArtsQuest, Mark Demko said that some events postponed for MusikFest have already been rescheduled out, one to this summer and the others into next year.
“As a presenting arts organization, ArtsQuest is all about bringing our community together through music, art and cultural celebrations; however, it’s in the best interest of everyone that we close our buildings to the public until at least March 31 and do what we can to promote social distancing and other best practices when it comes to slowing the spread of this disease,” Demko said. “We know there will be better days ahead and we look forward to seeing everyone at our concerts and programs down the road.
“With this evolving situation, we are making every effort to reschedule all events,” he said.
Both Demko and Hugos described rescheduling events as a complicated matter due to the unknown time when the health crisis will end and for the fact that the performers have to now make major adjustments to their travel itineraries.
Penn’s Peak Marketing Manager Krysta Fink released a statement putting on hold the scheduled events for the 1,600-seat entertainment venue at least until May.
“We just wanted to quickly mention and thank all the artists, managers and agencies that have been working with us overtime to find new dates for displaced shows … based on the very strong recommendations from the CDC limiting public gatherings, all our events through May 10 are to be canceled, postponed or rescheduled.
“The safety of our patrons, staff and artists remains of paramount importance. Please be vigilant in your efforts to help in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Much more to follow and thanks for understanding.”
Fink added that the box office at Penn’s Peak will be closed until March 30 at a minimum. Any purchases can still be made through Ticketmaster.
Hugos, Demko and Fink all said that patrons who have tickets for upcoming events should hold on to them. These tickets will be honored on the rescheduled dates for those events or credit may be applied toward other shows.
Until mandatory directives closing nonessential businesses were released, Hugos and his staff had spent recent days preparing the Mauch Chunk Opera House in hopes the facility could stay open.
“We spent hours and hours cleaning and scrubbing the House, and someone made a comment that it smelled like a surgical room,” he said with a laugh. “It’s probably the cleanest it’s ever been. Now, like everyone else, our hands are tied and we’ll have to sit back and wait.”