As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rise in Virginia, Lynchburg venues are faced with difficult decisions: to cancel, postpone or continue with events and programs, many of which they already have sold tickets for and have been penciled into people’s calendars for months.
Gov. Ralph Northam has announced a statewide ban of all public gatherings of more than 10 people, and many businesses and restaurants are closing their doors as Lynchburg residents hunker down to wait out the virus.
The Academy Center of the Arts has postponed all public performances through April 15, a docket that includes ten performances and events.
The statement released by the Academy on Friday said though it is disappointing to cancel upcoming events, they “look forward to coming together again as a community when the time is right.”
Beginning on March 24, box office staff at the Academy will refund tickets at the point of purchase. Patrons who used credit cards will have their purchase automatically refunded to the card used, and patrons that purchased with cash or check will be contacted by staff within 10 business days to arrange a refund.
Brittany Griffith, director of programming and sales for the Academy said they are making decisions in line with public health guidelines regarding COVID-19, and recommendations by local and state authorities to limit large public events.
“The saying is that the show must go on,” Griffith said in a statement early last week. “The show must go on unless it is unsafe for people in our seats and performers in our building.”
She encouraged anyone with additional questions to contact the box office at (434) 846-8499.
Other notable postponements include the second annual Hill City Pride. The festival was slated for April 25, but has been postponed until fall 2020.
Hill City Pride Manager Michael Kittinger said with the next six to eight weeks so uncertain, he couldn’t finalize decisions with the venue or have performers plan to fly in from across the country. He said they made the decision to cancel the April date so they could focus on putting effort into an event later this year when, hopefully, the coronavirus has passed.
Other Lynchburg venues, such as Riverviews Artspace, have announced closures for the remainder of March, and have postponed larger events — such as the Hill City Comics and Zine Fair, originally set for March 21, which has been moved to June 13.
Amazement Square closed its doors to the public entirely until May 12.
All birthday parties, rentals, group visits and special programming that were pre-booked and scheduled during this time will be rescheduled if possible and will be handled on an individual basis.
The Glass House, a live music and private event venue in downtown Lynchburg, also is canceling all of its shows for “the foreseeable future,” according to business owner Dave Henderson.
He said any ticket purchases will be fully refunded automatically.
“I think some of the musicians, artists and performers in this environment are going to take a massive hit to their livelihood,” Henderson said.
Even while artists search for creative ways to continue to share their music, such as livestreaming performances, the strain is real and, often, devastating, he said.
“We are in unprecedented times,” Henderson said.
As restaurants, bars and small businesses are forced to make closure decisions on a case-by-case basis, Henderson said he seeks a clearer mandate from the government on what these venues should do, collectively.
The Renaissance Theatre released a statement March 13 that it would continue to monitor the situation, and in the event a performance is canceled, ticket holders will be informed via email and/or a phone call. The statement said it also is considering refund or coupon options should the need arise, and will provide information if a cancellation occurs due to COVID-19 concerns.
For additional questions, the box office can be reached at (434) 845-4427.
“We will deal with the situation as it comes down the pike,” said Cheryl Carter, publicity and costume manager for Renaissance Theatre. “We are not going to jeopardize anyone’s health over a show.”