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Iconic Outdoor Concert Venue On South Coast Trying To Push Past Pandemic; Planning 2021 Season, With Eight Shows Already Set

(KCLU photo)
The Santa Barbara Bowl is hoping to once again host concerts in 2021, after being forced to cancel its 2020 season because of COVID-19

The Santa Barbara Bowl is shifting its traditional spring and summer season to the fall, with the hope COVID-19 safety concerns will have eased

It’s a beautiful day at the Santa Barbara Bowl. There’s a spectacular view of the ocean from the seats. But, the popular venue that’s hosted everyone from Santana to Katy Perry has been idle for a year and a half. Now, there’s an ambitious reopening plan which calls for time shifting its season to this fall.

Rick Boller is Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation, which runs the Bowl. He says the idea is to move the traditional spring and summer season to September, October, and November, with COVID-19 safety concerns hopefully easing by then.

The Bowl is a partner with Goldenvoice. It’s books the Bowl’s concerts. While the artists haven’t been announced yet, planning is underway for a huge season.
Moss Jacobs, Senior Vice President with Goldenvoice, tells KCLU News that they have eight concerts already set up for this fall, and ten more in the works, if health conditions permit. He says it’s too soon to say who may be coming.

Jacobs says they anxious to see what types of health restrictions might be in place. If social distancing is still a requirement, they might need to do things like having artists do two shows a day to accommodate the reduced capacity, while making the events work financially.

Boller says it’s possible you will also need more than just your ticket to attend a concert this fall. He says health officials may require you to come with proof of vaccination, or a recent negative COVID-19 test for entry.

The Bowl is a non-profit. It covers its operating costs through ticket and concession sales. So, while it was dark during the last year, it had to dip into reserves to cover maintenance and staff costs. Boller says they lost somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million dollars during the shutdown. It’s launched a community campaign to try to cover some of those costs.

But, the Bowl is also hoping to get help from a new federal COVID-19 relief effort called the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program. Democratic Congressman Salud Carbajal of Santa Barbara was one of the sponsors of the legislation. He says the $16 billion dollar program could potentially help a number of local performing arts venues like the Bowl, the Granada Theater, and the Lobero Theater, as well as some museums and zoos.

While the Bowl is planning to hold a 2021 season, there are questions about the other places in the region which hold large scale outdoor concerts, which are the county fairs.

The 2021 Ventura County Fair has already been cancelled. The 2021 Santa Barbara County Fair, in Santa Maria, is a question mark still. And, the Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles, which has attracted big names like Garth Brooks and Cardi B, is also up in the air.

Those in the concert business say in the end, it’s all going to come down to what state, and local health officials decide is safe.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.