As the Grateful Dead sang in the 1970s, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
After a hiatus due to the pandemic, live music and theatrical performances are back on stage on Hilton Head Island.
The Tiki Hut, the island’s pre-eminent oceanfront venue for live music, food and cool beverages, reopened in late May in a reduced capacity after being shuttered in mid-March, said Sol Terrazas, food and beverage outlets manager at the Beach House Resort.
Terrazas and the resort’s general manager held staff meetings during the closure to make sure everyone was on the same operational and servicing page.
“We didn’t want to open and figure it out as we went along,” she said. “We wanted to have a concrete plan in place. We were able as a group to weigh the good and the bad.”
Terrazas said that General Manager Jeff Elseser didn’t want to open too soon and then have to close again. At one of their meetings, he said, “If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it the right way or we won’t do it at all.”
“We were able to do it correctly,” Terrazas said.
The Tiki Hut reopened at 50% capacity with a load of health and safety protocols in place.
Terrazas said that by early fall, the Tiki Hut schedule was nearly back to its pre-pandemic level, with the exception being that local bands were the main calling card because of pandemic uncertainties and accessibility to perform at the last minute because of conditions.
Currently, the Tiki Hut showcases two shows daily at 1 and 6 p.m., a schedule that will continue through December, weather permitting. The bar’s house band, Jo Jo Squirrel, plays every Saturday.
Other venues in the Coligny area have taken similar steps to get musicians back on stage.
“We have made a huge effort this season to support all of the local musicians that we can,” said Erika Waronsky of Sandbar Beach Eats. “They took a significant hit this spring, just like we did, and it is up to us as a community to support each other.”
For a while, many musicians took to the internet in order to keep working.
“During quarantine we were able to provide a platform for 15 local musicians and bands to raise $20,000 in digital tips that went directly to those artists while broadcasting their performances to over 100,000 viewers,” said John Cranford of Swampfire Music and Coligny Theatre. “Now, we’re back, safely providing original music, throwback flicks, comedy and more!”
On Dec. 5, 15 musicians from the Lowcountry will take the stage at 7 p.m. at Coligny Theatre for a night of original music at the Swampfire Records 10th Anniversary special. Performers will include Angie Aparo, Cranford Hollow, Pretty Darn, Jevon Daly, Martin Lesch, Sara Burns and Zach Stevens, plus some special guests.
At the varied properties of the Coastal Restaurants and Bars Group (CRAB), entertainment picked up in late summer. Though most have now gone into winter mode, one of its restaurants continues to entertain crowds outside. Fish Camp at Broad Creek currently features Pretty Darn, as well as its two musicians, Nick Poulin and Kyle Wareham, separately, weather permitting.
Sarah Jobbins, general manager of Fish Camp and a CRAB Group partner, said, “Our guests love sitting in the lawn relaxing in the fresh air, enjoying the music while the sun sets.”
“We value our musicians like family,” said Brendan Reilley, a CRAB partner. “Even though we have had to do things a little differently to stay socially responsible, we are in full support of our musicians safely returning to our venues.”
At the mid-island Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, the venue’s doors swung open in late October after being shut since mid-March, said vice president of marketing Andrea Gannon.
Along with other performance venues, the Arts Center was forced to close its theatrical doors March 17 to in-person events, reopening Oct. 24 to the public.
Seventy percent of the center’s staff was furloughed mid-summer for six weeks. Gannon said 74 performances were canceled through Aug. 11 of its fiscal year – including the annual Spring Gala and four rentals by other organizations – and 55 performances were canceled since Sept. 1.
The award-winning nonprofit organization established many protocols to reopen as safely and as soon as possible.
One of the most important protocols was mandated by the government at 50 percent seating capacity. For patrons, face coverings, social distancing and sanitizing between customers are required. Temperature checks are conducted at the door. Staff and volunteers wear masks and gloves at all times.
Despite the lockdown and unprecedented health and safety enforcements, there has been a glimmer of light for staff and patrons.
“Our team immediately looked at what we could do virtually, and the result has been a wonderful silver lining,” said Jeffrey Reeves, CEO and president. A number of creative new initiatives were created to engage the public online and on Zoom.
Thankfully, the center is hosting “The Nutcracker,” performed by the Carolina Collective Dance Centre, Dec. 4-5. “A Carpenters Christmas,” featuring the duo’s holiday hits, will be performed onstage Dec. 21.
Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.