Popular Calgary music venue to reopen but live concerts still not allowed

A popular Calgary music venue is opening back up after nearly six months of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dickens Pub will once again start hosting live events on Sept. 3, with a slate of shows for Calgary’s Pride Week.

Chris Hewitt, the owner of Dickens Pub, said it’s been a long process, and that opening night will be an emotional one.

“There will be some people getting choked up, there will be some tears,” said Hewitt. “We just weren’t sure if this would happen again.”

Read more: Calgary musicians help to keep the Ironwood rocking

While there will be drag shows, trivia nights and DJ sets, live bands with vocals is still a ways off since singing indoors goes against current health guidelines.

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There are also limitations on capacity with the bar only being able to accommodate between 60 and 90 people when it would normally hold 400.

Hewitt said he knows fans are excited to get out again, and that he’s tried to keep Dickens an affordable night out. However, he said people will have to be spending money to make the new reality work.

“Just coming, sitting and being part of the atmosphere and supporting by your presence… is not going to be enough anymore,” said Hewitt.

The new layout at Dickens is also set up to maximize revenue, with most tables seating six people, the maximum allowed by the province.

Hewitt said going out in a small cohort will be the new norm.

“We can’t really afford to seat two people at a table,” said Hewitt. “Because if the whole room fills up with couples, we won’t make it.

Read more: Calgary Folk Music Festival goes virtual amid COVID-19 pandemic

Local musicians

Ruel James has a special connection to Dickens, having played shows at the downtown bar for a decade.

“This place means a lot,” said James. “It’s where a lot of my bands have gotten their first offer for real shows that have given us traction and pushed us to make this a reality for ourselves.”

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And even though his band Widmore won’t be stepping on stage until the provincial guidelines change, more venues opening for live events is seen as a step in the right direction.

“A lot of bands would be sad that they have to play to… a smaller amount of people, and that they have to be seated and separated, but just the idea of being able to play rock music again… is insanely exciting,” James said. “We’re not dying to play shows because we know what’s going on and people’s health is a lot more important than playing shows.

“But if there’s a way to do that safely… that would give a lot of people hope.”

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