The wait is almost over for the return of live entertainment.
At Bear’s Smokehouse in New Haven, general manager Julien Garcia says their goal this summer is to get as close to normal as possible, which means the return of comedy and music.
“Just to see people laugh again and just to see people enjoy. It’s been a hard year for all of us,” said Garcia
With pandemic restrictions lifting, they plan to host weekly events in the restaurant’s outdoor space starting next week. He says it’s the next step in bringing people back and building consumer confidence.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
“This is going to be a slow process for the industry to get back to where it needs to be and for people to feel a little more comfortable,” Garcia said.
That’s why after state restrictions lift on May 19, they’ll keep a lot of the protocol in place, like the plexiglass around the bar and between booths. He says they plan to slowly remove the barriers over time.
The restaurant is also expanding food service to another entertainment space: the new Westville Music Bowl.
“This is a dream come true so I’m just really proud to represent what is now reality,” said Ward 26 Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr.
Once home to the Connecticut Open, the last title was won in August 2018. Starting Friday, musicians will take center stage.
“When you all see the retrofit, you’ll see that this building was perfectly fitted for concerts,” said Keith Mahler, owner and operator of Premier Concerts.
The plan was to welcome concertgoers in 2020 after a deal between the city and the New Haven Center for Performing Arts. The pandemic put off the launch until this year.
“A year later we have been leading as a state, throughout the country, our vaccination efforts,” said Maritza Bond, New Haven Director of Health. “And [we] have been able to now open to large events such as this one, so that we can be able to get back to what we do best.”
There are 22 shows lined up this summer. Tickets are available in groups of up to four people. That follows pandemic safety guidelines and they may be revisited after May 19.
“I just know many memories are going to be made here. Memories are going to be made here in Westville,” Brackeen said.
The socially distanced seats are going fast. The concerts are scheduled through the end of June and many of them are already sold out.