U.K.’s First Socially Distanced Venue Shut Down Due to Lockdown Measures

The U.K.’s Virgin Money Unity Arena, the first “dedicated socially distanced” venue, was forced to shut down after six weeks of hosting shows due to new Covid-19 restrictions in the Newcastle area.

“In light of the announcement that new local lockdown measures will be introduced in the North East, our upcoming weekend of shows can no longer go ahead,” the venue announced Thursday.

“It is extremely disappointing to have to cancel these final shows at the end of what has been an incredible six-week run of successfully socially distanced concerts. We have complied with all government guidance to ensure the safety and enjoyment of our audience, artists and crew throughout. We’d like to thank all who attended these genuinely heartwarming and uplifting events. For the last six weeks, Newcastle has been the leading light for the live music industry and for that, we should all be very proud.”

Thursday night’s Chase & Status show will be the last show at the Virgin Money Unity Arena in 2020; the new measures take effect at midnight U.K. time. Only a handful of gigs remained on the venue’s calendar, including concerts by Kaiser Chiefs and Declan McKenna scheduled this weekend. “All ticket holders for canceled shows will be contacted regarding a refund,” the venue promised.

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Thank you Newcastle, see you for one last dance tonight.

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As part of new restrictions in the North East region — where Covid-19 cases in the area have risen, BBC News reports — a 10 p.m. curfew will be enforced as well as other lockdown measures.

Prior to shutting down, the venue successfully — as far as pandemic-era shows go — hosted concerts by Sam Fender (who played the venue’s inaugural gig), Supergrass, Van Morrison, the Libertines and Two Door Cinema Club. Capacity at the arena — a spacious converted racetrack — was 2,500 people per show.

“We tried looking at the car option, and we all thought collectively that you just couldn’t get the same atmosphere if there was a car between every group,” Steve Davis, director of SSD Concerts, told Rolling Stone. “But if the car isn’t there, all of a sudden you get more of a gig atmosphere. We tried to get as close to the old gig experience as we knew it. We had to jump through a lot of hoops with the local council, but we made it work. So we were conscious to remove the car from the scenario and try and make this new type of music venue that’s still COVID-friendly.”

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