Hong Kong reopens curtain on live venues

Easing of restrictions on performance venues welcomed by local events producers with hope of lifting the burden on producers, suppliers and musicians financially hit by Covid downturn

LIVE-PERFORMANCE venues in Hong Kong can resume from October 1 under the government’s easing of Covid restrictions following successive days of fewer recorded infections.

Event producers in Hong Kong are welcoming the move as offering much needed hope to small companies and freelancers supplying services to corporate clients. An event company owner told MIX that though restrictions would remain largely in place the announcement strengthened prospects for a “rebound” in business events.

The announcement is primarily aimed at larger venues instead of bars and restaurants, but Hong Kong’s live events community view it as a potential lifeline to hundreds of full-time musicians in the city, many of whom perform at business events. Performers, event suppliers and venue operators have seen business plummet over the past few months due to anti-Covid restrictions.

“This announcement is not quite where we need to be – at a stage when we can safely organise large-scale events, but it’s a very positive sign,” said David Andrews, director at Chunky Onion, which organises corporate entertainment.

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“If we can get gathering restrictions lifted sooner, rather than later, I believe the Hong Kong event industry will rebound fairly quickly,” he said.

Freelancers and small companies have been severely hit by the downturn with business event industry leaders criticising support measures rolled out by the government as inadequate.

Ajay Parekh, one of the independent producers affected by the Covid crisis, welcomed the move and hoped it would encourage corporates to make a return to live events.

“This is great news and will surely help event agencies, creative and technical vendors, but most of all it will give much needed work and comfort to staff and the thousands of freelancers who have had no financial support and been so badly affected throughout this year,” Parekh said, who is also a co-organiser of the Event Freelancer Summit.

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“Positive news like this will give confidence to brands across the retail and corporate sector to plan and commit to activities and continue to have positive ripple effects across the region.”

Measures that venues have to put in place before performances can go ahead include partitions or screens between performers and audience; only half of seats at a venue to be sold, and no more than four people seated alongside each other. The relaxed restrictions also cover museums, theme parks and theatres.

A survey conducted by The Underground HK, which represents and organises events for independent bands, found that 61 per cent of the 646 musicians who responded regarded music as their full-time job.

The majority of respondents were relying on savings to survive with nearly half seeking jobs outside the music industry as a result of venue closures and bans on more than four people gathering.

The resumption of live performances comes as Hong Kong prepares for the mid-autumn festival, which sees families gathering outdoors and visiting restaurants.

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Event organisers have also reported more enquiries in the past few weeks related to the annual holiday, but callers have also been concerned about cancellation policies if another Covid surge returns.

“We have been getting more inquiries lately that indicate there is an interest in doing live events like conferences, galas and weddings,” said Andrews, of Chunky Onion.

“What I am seeing is that people connect through events; they like to get together, be entertained and enjoy genuine interaction that can only be achieved at a live event.

“If we can get gathering restrictions lifted sooner, rather than later, I believe the Hong Kong event industry will rebound fairly quickly.”

Main picture: Jazz in Hong Kong (Courtesy Hong Kong Tourism Board)

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