La Jolla venues not rushing to host indoor events: ‘It would be difficult to change’ existing programming

The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, home to the La Jolla Music Society at 7600 Fay Ave.
The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, home to the La Jolla Music Society at 7600 Fay Ave., currently presents streamed and outdoor concerts.

Though California plans to allow indoor live events and performances to resume with capacity limitations starting Thursday, April 15, some of La Jolla’s performance venues are not ready to fling their doors open just yet.

The new COVID-19-related guidance takes effect a week after San Diego County moved into the orange tier, the second-least-restrictive level in the state’s reopening framework.

The new rules for indoor live events are as follows in the orange tier:

• For venues with a capacity of up to 1,500 people, attendance will be limited to 15 percent of capacity or 200 people and increase to 35 percent if all guests show proof of a negative coronavirus test or full vaccination against COVID-19.

• For larger venues, the base limit will be 10 percent or 2,000 people, though it could increase to 35 percent if all guests are tested or fully vaccinated.

In addition to capacity restrictions, other requirements placed on indoor performance spaces include: attendance limited to in-state visitors only, having a weekly worker testing program, all tickets delivered digitally in advance, designated eating areas and seating spaced six feet apart.

With livestreamed and outdoor concert series already in place at venues such as the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, the decision on whether to make the move indoors isn’t being made quickly or taken lightly.

In March, the La Jolla Music Society announced six new outdoor classical concerts between April 10 and June 5 in the Conrad’s Wu Tsai Courtyard, with seating capacity of 98 each. Seats are in pods of two, with each pair of seats placed six feet from the other pairs. Patrons are required to wear masks throughout each one-hour concert.

The organization later announced three courtyard jazz concerts between April 24 and June 24.

Music Society Executive Director Todd Schultz said the reception to the concerts has been “great,” with many sold out.

However, he said “we don’t have a plan yet” for whether switching indoors will be feasible for the remaining spring and early-summer concerts.

La Jolla may have a climate that makes it possible to dine outdoors year-round, but that doesn’t mean local restaurants are turning down the opportunity to bring patrons back indoors.

Schultz said the board is looking at its concert schedule in two phases: before June 15 and after. California officials said last week that they plan to lift the tier system of COVID-19 restrictions by June 15, although a mask mandate will remain.

“We are reviewing the upcoming concerts … and trying to determine if the indoor restrictions allow us to have enough patrons or whether we should keep them outdoors,” Schultz said.

For programs scheduled for after June 15, including the annual SummerFest concert series, “we need time to revisit our plans … and alternatives,” he said.

In addition to outdoor concerts, several La Jolla Music Society productions are livestreamed. “The most interesting thing for me about the pandemic situation is there is an appetite for streamed programming that might live beyond this period,” Schultz said. “We can get beyond our region and we have seen quite a number of people from outside California and the United States that are streaming our programs. That is an interesting shift in how we look at our audience and something we should we consider going forward.”

Similarly, the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library took its programming online and likely will continue to do so until the summer, even with the relaxed restrictions on indoor performances.

La Jolla's Athenaeum Music & Arts Library will continue its online programming until this summer.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

“We are continuing with the jazz and chamber concerts online,” said Executive Director Erika Torri. She added that the organization also is focusing on its current indoor art exhibition, “Paula McColl: Celebrating La Jolla,” which is on view through May 8 with limited capacity.

However, she said, the Athenaeum is planning to revive its summer jazz concerts in June, concert-and-dinner program with Gustavo Romero in July and film series in the courtyard in August.

“We might have one lecture series in person on Joseph Beuys, a German artist [in May and June]. However, that is still up to the lecturer; she might prefer the online event,” Torri said.

“Many performers and also audience members have gotten very attached to the online presentations, and we will try to sort it out,” she said. “Our music programs are usually set months ahead, and that has been the case with the current jazz and chamber concerts. We already have people who have signed up for those online events and it would be too complicated to change it. Some audience members are from out of town and it just would not work.

“We also continue with a lecture series online because we already have sign-ups from not only out of town but out of the country, like Germany. So it would be difficult to change all that.”

Management at the La Jolla Comedy Store, which took advantage of its outdoor driveway to launch a series of open-air shows, did not respond to the La Jolla Light’s request for comment. However, outdoor shows are scheduled with comedian Tone Bell on April 16-18.

The La Jolla Playhouse has been offering online productions for some time. Representatives did not respond to an inquiry about the theater’s plans. ◆