Signs of a rebound at Hartford venues
A reluctance to attend live shows appears to be easing a bit this spring in Hartford as the pandemic winds down, but the push to coax people off their couches and away from the television still has months, possibly even a year or more, ahead of it.
Even so, at Sea Tea Improv, downtown’s underground comedy club, and other venues around the city, there are encouraging signs of audiences again lining up for tickets.
“I was very scared until around Christmas,” Sea Tea founder and managing director Julia Pistell said. “And then in January — it was always our busy month anyway — but all of a sudden — it really felt like all of a sudden — people felt like ‘I am done.’ So we just had a big influx in January and it has sustained for these few months. So. I’m feeling pretty positive right now.”
Before the pandemic, Sea Tea, whose actors draw their improvisations from the audience, typically saw crowds of 40-50 a show at their 80-seat venue on Asylum Street. The turnout fell to as low as 10% or 20% of that typical attendance, but in recent weeks, it has climbed to an average of 60%, Pistell said.
“Which is obviously not amazing, but it’s also not what it was, which was much, much worse,” Pistell said.
The spread of COVID-19 in early 2020 was swiftly followed by the forced closure of stores, restaurants, arts and entertainment venues in Connecticut, touching off a dramatic cultural shift that made the home the central focus of life and work. Once the state’s closure orders were lifted, many employers in the hospitality and entertainment industry found themselves financially stretched and hamstrung by the loss of workers.
Infinity Music Hall Hartford, the concert and comedy venue in the city’s Front Street entertainment district, was closed for 18 months, and its owners had to seriously consider whether they would be able to reopen the concert hall. Infinity Hall had been hailed as an anchor for the Front Street area when it first opened in 2014 and a major boost for the city’s nightlife.
BY KENNETH R. GOSSELIN | HARTFORD COURANT
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