VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — COVID-19 wiped out a year of concerts and performances, practically shutting down entertainment venues across Hampton Roads. When will people finally get to enjoy a show again? Many venues are slowly making plans.
For months now, the Sandler Center has been dark. But soon it will light up with laughs, all for a good cause.
“Our last event was almost a year ago,” said Sandler Center Marketing Director Megan Boyle. “It was March 13."
The venue tried streaming virtual acts to stay afloat during the pandemic.
“It’s been more of a way to engage the community,” Boyle said.
But, next week a live comedy show will take center stage. Comedian Jim Breuer will be cracking jokes at Sandler’s first in-person event in 11 months. The $200 ticket will help People in Need Ministry.
“Who doesn’t need a night to laugh after this year?” asked PiN Ministry Executive Director Dallas Stamper. “The sponsors paid for the night and so the money that comes to us is going directly to help the homeless.”
The event's corporate sponsors are Canzell Realty, VSA resorts, Town Scapes, AGI, and Hanger Law.
Stamper said the event will follow strict guidelines.
“We are going to have it, but we are going to do it safely,” Stamper said.
The performance hall can seat 1,308 people, but the capacity for the show is limited to 250. People must wear masks and their seats will be spaced at least six feet apart from others.
Governor Northam’s 250-person cap is a bigger financial barrier for venues like the Norfolk Scope or Hampton Coliseum, which can hold 10,000 people. Impractical Jokers are coming to the Scope in May, but Seven Venues Assistant Director Rob Henson said it may get moved.
“As soon as we get some capacity, we are going to start doing some events,” Henson said. “Now we are already confirming dates for the fall.”
Next month they will host the MEAC Basketball Tournament. No tickets will be sold due to the capacity, but Henson said the full tournament will be live-streamed.
Hampton Arts Artistic Director Richard Parison Jr. said they are focusing on local artists, since bigger acts aren’t touring yet.
“At the Coliseum, we are working on our spring concert pop-up series, which will be outdoors,” Parison said. “And we are also looking to bring back our drive-in movie events which were very popular last summer and into the early fall.”
Both are actively planning.
“People are ready to get back to touring,” Henson said. “I know the artists are ready, the fans are ready.”
As for next week’s comedy show, Stamper said they’ll keep ticket sales below the 250 limit. He hopes people will come out to help their homeless neighbors.
“That is why we are trying to raise money,” Stamper said. “We want to continue to keep our lights on and keep our ministry going.”
The comedy show kicks off Friday, February 19 at 8 p.m.
Sandler Center staff said they are working to schedule events throughout the rest of the year, but they haven’t released more details.