Loosening restrictions on gatherings in Sedgwick County give hope for local venues

Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 10:43 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Over the past month or so as COVID-19 numbers are trending in the right direction and more people are getting vaccinated, Sedgwick County has lifted restrictions on bars, restaurants and nightclubs. But the entertainment industry is still feeling the impact of the health orders. At venues like WAVE, nobody has lined up to buy tickets in more than a year. And that means no revenue.

The stage at WAVE has been dark for more than 365 days. Adam Hartke, co-owner of the Cotillion and a partner at WAVE, said he never imagined being shut down this long. It’s a situation he described as “brutal.”

“We had no clue, we had no idea what to expect,” he said of initially having to shut down last March due to COVID-19. “A couple weeks turned into a couple months. That turned into six or eight months. That turned into a year.”

No live events means no income, but bills are still due.

“A year with no revenue is tough for any business, especially businesses like ours that have huge facilities and high overhead costs,” Hartke said.

To keep the venues from closing for good, owners have had to lean on government assistance.

“Luckily, we got some help from the state of Kansas, and the federal government’s stepped up with venue operators grants,” Hartke said.

But as Sedgwick County’s new health order (starting Sunday, March 21) lifts restrictions on gatherings and capacity, live events could soon return to Wichita. Hartke said this, along with decreasing COVID-19 cases and more people getting vaccinated are hopeful signs.

“Hopefully things will keep trending as they are and the vaccines will stay effective,” Hartke said.

By summer, he hopes venues like WAVE will again be filled with people and music.

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