Live music allowed in New Orleans again with heavy restrictions

It's almost been a year since the Howlin’ Wolf's stage has been electrified with local live...
It's almost been a year since the Howlin’ Wolf's stage has been electrified with local live music and owner Howie Kaplan says it'll probably be just as long before they're able to do it safely again.(WVUE)
Updated: Feb. 2, 2021 at 10:30 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Live music is starting back up in New Orleans as part of the city’s new modified phase two COVID-19 guidelines, although it comes on a much smaller scale.

It’s almost been a year since the Howlin’ Wolf’s stage has been electrified with local live music and owner Howie Kaplan says it’ll probably be just as long before they’re able to do it safely again.

”To say that that New Orleans culture and the culture bearers and the cultural ambassadors are in trouble, it’s kind of a, you’re hitting it right there,” Kaplan said. “You know, I like to use the phrase ‘cultural extinction’.”

There’s been little federal help for an industry that spans from musicians to technicians. Only recently did Congress pass the Save Our Stages Act.

”It’s going to help us kind of muddle through this, but it’s still only 45-percent of the gross revenue that we might have gotten,” Kaplan said. “Imagine any business saying you’re going to be closed for two years and you still have to pay all your bills.”

Kaplan says he’s been talking with city officials to get some more help on the local level when it comes to restrictions.

”Imagine you have a restaurant and you can only have 10 people,” Kaplan said. “How do you do that? Imagine having any type of business and saying you’re only allowed to have 10 people. We get it we understand it, but we’re trying to also understand that there’s equity in all of it.”

The city’s new guidelines limit audiences to 10 people inside, 25 outside. No singing or dancing and all have to be seated and masked. No singers or wind-blown instruments inside. Any violations and your special permit can be revoked.

”It’s not really feasible because a lot of times, the type of gigs that we have, they’re based on the number of people that you bring in and so the math of it doesn’t work,” Keith Frazier with Rebirth Brass Band said. “Twenty-five people at $20? It’s not going to really pay a whole lot of money or even that venue or a person, putting on the event.”

Frazier is happy there is some movement and says this will help some artists but it’s a different story for Rebirth Brass Band.

”A band that has eight horn players and you’re used to playing to two or three hundred people, it’s not really a whole lot of help,” Frazier said.

For Frazier, it’s a catch 22 and he doesn’t believe there is much more the city could do.”It’s not just about the city and the state restrictions, it’s really about when people will feel comfortable again and as the vaccine is distributed more, as hospitals are better able to deal with the pressure of folks,” Kaplan said.Kaplan says he is working with city health officials to see what can be done as well as coming up with unique and safe ways to open up his space that normally holds

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