PROVINCETOWN — Pilgrim House events manager David Burbank would usually be booking talent for the summer season by now.
But he can’t do that, because he still has no idea what summer regulations will be like for the Provincetown entertainment sector, which has been eviscerated by the pandemic.
Burbank and others were encouraged when Gov. Charlie Baker announced he will allow the reopening of indoor live entertainment venues on March 22. But Provincetown officials said last week that they have no intention of following Baker’s recommendation and will instead keep existing bans in place until at least April 29.
Provincetown currently prohibits live entertainment indoors. Baker’s order for March 22 will allow indoor venues to open at 50-percent capacity, up to a limit of 100 people.
Of all local businesses affected by pandemic-related restrictions, those involved in nightlife and entertainment have taken the biggest hit, said Bob Sanborn, executive director of the Provincetown Business Guild.
Businesses that had outdoor space were able to sell a reduced number of seats in 2020, Sanborn said. “Others didn’t have that, so there is a sector of the economy that is struggling,” he added.
Burbank said that Pilgrim House last year converted its parking lot into a 52-seat outdoor cabaret. That compares to the 180 seats they had indoors.
“We had a sold-out season,” he said. “But we were hoping this summer would be different.” At the very least, he was hoping to have some idea of what summer would look like in March, so he could make plans.
“In December, I’m usually looking at talent,” Burbank said. “It’s very hard to make contact with A-list performers without knowing what we’re allowed to do.”
The town’s select and health boards voted to hold off on opening up and will meet again on April 29 to consider new rules, depending on the vaccination rollout throughout the U.S.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated it’s too soon to move into reopening, select board chair David Abramson said on March 4. He agreed with the CDC. “We were told that all vaccines will be available at the end of May,” he said. “But that’s not in everyone’s arms.”
For summer 2021, Abramson said, people in Provincetown should expect the same rules as last year until July.
On March 4, the board of health concurred. Dr. Susan Troyan, the board’s vice chair, said herd immunity will not be achieved until between 60 and 90 percent of the U.S. population has been vaccinated.
“I can see where we’d hit a target of herd immunity by sometime in the summer — maybe early summer — but there is no way to predict this,” Troyan said. “We should be looking at what is trending toward herd immunity throughout the country. We have to be very careful until the entire country is doing well.”
“My biggest fear is if we pull back too soon, we’ll be on the news,” said Abramson, noting that cities and towns such as Miami Beach saw outbreaks when they opened up too soon.
Sanborn argued that none of the business owners would go back to normal instantly, but they could partially open and be safe.
Burbank later noted that every customer pod would have to be six feet from the others. “It would be quite a bit smaller than the regular crowd,” he said.
Sanborn said he hopes the board of health and the select board will meet before April 29 — in fact, soon after March 22 would be a key time to check in.
The business community prioritizes safety, Sanborn said. “The problem we need to solve is how to reopen safely,” he said. “We need the time to formulate a plan to do that.”