The fate of outstanding performance venues

The owners of concert halls have the sad impression of living Groundhog Day, when they will have to reduce their capacity by half as of Monday due to the rise of the Omicron variant. A real headache to be expected, knowing that several shows are sold out in the coming weeks.

“Do we draw lots among the ticket holders to find out who will be able to come?” Will the promoters agree to do a second show so that everyone who has a ticket can see the show ? Or isn’t it easier to just undo everything? Asks the owner of Club Soda, Michel Sabourin, who has not yet found answers to these questions.

Faced with this difficult dilemma, Mr. Sabourin was still trying as best he could to withstand the shock on Friday morning, the day after the press conference by Prime Minister François Legault which was reminiscent of the darkest hours of the pandemic . A period that we believed to be over at Club Soda, where we were planning the spring programming before the government’s announcement cut short the hopes of the past few weeks.

Ticket sales were going well. Many of the shows were sold out, which will force some tough choices in the coming days. With a capacity of 900 or 500 seats – depending on whether the public is seated or standing – Club Soda will have to be content with a maximum of 250 seats with the entry into force of the new sanitary guidelines next week.

“Operating at 250 is not profitable. For it to be, you must at least have sold between 60 and 70% of the seats. […] The promoters would have to be willing to take the risk, but I’m really not sure. […] We thought we saw the end of the light at the end of the tunnel, but no… ”regrets with a certain bitterness Michel Sabourin, also spokesperson for the Association of independent performance halls of Quebec.

According to him, several rooms will prefer to cancel everything until spring rather than reorganize themselves according to the new health rules. Especially since many fear that this new tightening is only the tip of the iceberg. The owners of theaters still remember the long confinement of the second wave. They also remember the disappointment of last spring, when they were able to resume performing before the curtain fell again with the third wave.


At the Fairmount Theater, in the Mile-End, the decision has already been made. For the next month, shows for which more than 50% of tickets had been sold will be canceled or postponed indefinitely. It would be too complicated to choose for each performance which ticket holder can attend.

“To open two months after a year and a half of closure, and to have to close again: it breaks my heart. I understand why we are doing this, I know that the health situation is critical, but it remains that it is really tough », Says Olivier Corbeil, who is also co-owner of Bar le Ritz PDB and Newspeak.

He consoles himself by telling himself that the government aid in place for theaters has been maintained for the time being. at least until March. Olivier Corbeil also finds a way to keep his calm by remembering that the weeks between the end of December and the month of February usually correspond to the off-peak period for theaters. “If everything is to be closed, as well as it is now”, he illustrates.

But if the restrictions were to extend into the spring, venue owners wouldn’t find it funny at all. Another source of concern for them: what will happen to recently hired employees?

“The biggest problem we had during the time we were open was finding staff because of the labor shortage. We had finally succeeded with difficulty and misery. There are people in there who we have hired with an annual salary. What do we do now ? It’s appalling ”, describes Olivier Corbeil, still a little stunned by the announcement of the day before, even if he had seen things coming.

Not a surprise

At the Théâtre du Rideau Vert, we were also prepared at the start of the week when rumors began to circulate that the government was thinking of again reducing the gauges in the theaters. Three additional tickets to the year’s end show Reviewed and corrected had not yet been offered for sale. Thus, spectators who had bought their tickets for next week will be offered the opportunity to attend one of these three performances instead in order to respect the 50% capacity.

“We will start by calling those who bought their tickets last. It’s déjà vu for us. We did the same thing last spring, ”continues the director general of the theater, Céline Marcotte, tired of playing constantly in this film for almost two years, but still optimistic under the circumstances.

It must be said that his theater had had a very good season since October, when the government had decided to drop the distancing in theaters in order to allow them to fill to their maximum capacity. The compulsory wearing of the mask had initially put off some spectators, but since then the sale of tickets had resumed a certain cruising speed, a level “relatively normal” compared to the pre-pandemic, according to Céline Marcotte.

Virtual shows

This momentum is now coming up against the new restrictions announced by the Legault government.

The promoter Karl-Emmanuel Picard therefore relies on virtual shows, and hopes that the public will be there, as in previous waves. At the Anti, a bar-show he owns in Quebec, he was keen to keep the equipment for the recordings in place, with the instinct that things can sometimes change overnight in times of a pandemic.

“Even when the rooms could be filled, there continued to be a demand for them. shows virtual. Maybe not as much as during confinement, but still. But anyway, there is a good chance that we will return to it for the next few months, ”predicts Karl-Emmanuel Picard, resigned, but ready this time.

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