Billy Bob’s Texas / Ryman Auditorium to Attempt Reopening

In a bid to start attempting to get back to some semblance of normal, two important and iconic venues in the country music world are opening their doors once again, but under strict protocols and to limited audiences.

The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville—a.k.a. the Country Music Mother Church—has been mostly shuttered since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, aside from rare performances such as a Sturgill Simpson socially distanced bluegrass jam that was streamed online. But it will be opening its doors again starting on August 14th for streaming events every Friday evening that promoters hope will slowly allow for live audience members to return in limited numbers as COVID-19 concerns and restrictions ease.

Working with Vanderbilt Health and approved by Nashville Public Health Department, all support staff will be wearing masks and adhere to local regulations, and the events will be live streamed with a $10 admission to each event. Season passes and VIP options are also available.

“Our company has prioritized the health and safety of our employees, customers and artists since day one of the pandemic,” said Colin Reed, chairman and CEO, Ryman Hospitality Properties. “This unique live music experience represents the next step in our commitment to doing things the right way while also creating a repeatable model that will allow artists and fans to connect during this bridge period until a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is available.”

At the moment the lineup for these Ryman events may be a little hit and miss depending on your tastes, but it is exciting to see the Mother Church open once again for music, and it could be a big opportunity for performers and worthy entertainment for fans as we have seen with the Grand Ole Opry’s Saturday night streams that have endured through the pandemic.

The Current Ryman Schedule:

August 14 – for KING & COUNTRY
August 21 – Cam
August 28 – Chris Janson
September 4 – Scotty McCreery
September 11 – Brett Young
September 18 – Old Crow Medicine Show

Tickets are available at ryman.com.

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Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth is also opening its doors beginning this upcoming weekend, and is doing so to live audiences, but once again under strict guidelines, and with the blessing and oversight of local officials. Billy Bob’s is using a provision in place in Texas that allows restaurants to open to limited capacities, but is keeping bars and music venues closed. With a full service restaurant on site, Billy Bob’s can qualify as long as they keep attendance limited, which they intend to do.

49% of revenue must come from food for a venue can qualify as a restaurant. The “World’s Largest Honky Tonk” will limit its 6,000-capacity space to just 1,200 customers, or 20% of its occupancy. Patrons must wear masks, and will go through temperature checks at the door. Only 30 people will be allowed on the dance floor at a given time, and heavily trafficked areas will be sanitized regularly by staff during events.

Many performers from Texas and beyond have already signed up to perform, including The Bellamy Brothers, Tracy Byrd, Josh Abbott Band, and Flatland Cavalry. “In wake of all these pandemic blues many local venues are struggling to keep the lights on and are seeking new ways to safely put on shows,” Flatland Cavalry said on social media. “Billy Bob’s Texas reached out asking if we’d like to try and be a part of the solution in the effort to #SaveOurVenues.”

By hopefully providing a safe and sustainable model of how to open venues, the Billy Bob’s option could offer a way forward to some music businesses that are facing foreclosure or eviction, with many already having shuttered for good. The Flatland Cavalry event is going the extra mile by collecting a percentage of the proceeds to benefit the Lubbock venue The Blue Light which is unable to opening in the same capacity as Billy Bob’s. This is an example of how larger venues could help support smaller venues, and using bigger venues where social distancing is possible to scale capacity for performers.

Billy Bob’s Upcoming Schedule:

August 14th – The Bellamy Brothers
August 15th – Flatland Cavalry
August 21st – Tracy Byrd
August 22nd – Casey Donahew
August 23rd – Chad Prather
August 29th – Josh Abbott Band
September 11th – Sammy Kershaw
September 12th – Granger Smith

For tickets, visit billbobstexas.com .

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The success (or failure) these two important venues have in their reopening plans—as well as other venues that are beginning to open their doors once again—could create the template for other venues across the country to once again invite artists onto stages. Undoubtedly many will be looking on with interest, and scrutiny.

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