UPDATE: Right after we published this, the governor advised against small gatherings until the end of March—and requesting that events including people at high-risk for COVID-19 should be limited to 10 people, sitting six feet apart. He has not yet specifically recommended the closing of bars and restaurants.
Many of us feel adrift and tense right now—should you risk going out or going to work in a time of coronavirus? How can the arts and artists survive, when we’re all living on such slim margins that we can’t miss even a couple weeks of work?
In a time of social distancing, how can the communal arts continue?
I received a lot of feedback from my last Arts Forecast column, some of it upset that I continued to recommend events at all at this time. It’s a tough dilemma, a balancing act of letting people make their own informed decisions and supporting the workers and institutions keeping our culture alive. (Including websites like this, which substantially rely on arts advertising—as well as donations from our generous readers—to stay operational.)
At least some city leaders have taken some definitive action by closing many city-owned buildings, issuing helpful guidelines, and proposing some baby steps to help artists and small businesses out and prevent eviction and price-gouging. (I’d like to see a big general fund for artists and workers who have lost work.) Things are still chaotic in terms of what events are still going on, and we should probably consider a future scenario where we self-isolate, but overall we’re getting a clearer picture.
The latest is that gatherings of 1000 or more people have been banned in San Francisco—mostly a reaction to the Chase Center refusing to close and indifferently posting a notice at the entrance that you can’t sue if you get sick. The Governor has just called Wednesday night for gatherings of more than 250 people to be postponed, so we will see how that plays out in the coming days. The large Great Northern nightclub has decided to suspend operations for the weekend, and I feel that we’ll be hearing a lot more of that.
Institutions like the SF Symphony, SF Ballet, and Mechanics’ Institute Library remain closed for the next couple weeks, while other, smaller venues are taking things on a case-by-case basis. At the Stud, capacity 250, we remain open, although our popular Friday industrial techno dance party has just been postponed. Like other bars, we are putting up signs to inform patrons of steps they can take to stay uninfected, and placing hand sanitizer stations throughout the building. Like many nightclubs, too, we are talking about moving our DJ parties online to a streaming platform if smaller gatherings are banned, so people can watch and dance (and tip) along at home. Really!
Besides giant festivals and concerts like SXSW and Coachella being cancelled and postponed, Trump’s just-announced 30-day European travel ban probably just decimated the dance music and arts festival economy for the spring. There are growing lists of local events and venues that have gotten the kibosh, too. Here’s a list from KQED, and one from SF Weekly.
Because things are so topsy-turvy, I’m not going to recommend specific events this weekend, since things are being cancelled right and left. Instead, I recommend keeping an eye on our arts and culture section for what’s going on, checking in with your favorite establishments, and remembering that most bars and restaurants remain open and need your support.
I highly recommend a new Irish bar in the Mission called Casements, which is named after a human rights hero and gay martyr, serves up fantastic cocktails and ambiance, and sports a menu that includes enormous prawn crackers, soda bread, chicken curry, and warm hand pies. There’s good people behind it, too.
Just remember to air-kiss, wash your hands, and sit a couple feet apart. Just like the Irish nuns told you!
PS Just got word that this awesome queer punk show is still happening at Bottom of the Hill on Saturday. (Oh shoot it was just canceled.)
PPS If you do go out, tip like the wind!