Country music star Keith Urban played the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in 2016. (Courtesy photo/Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion)

GILFORD — The Bank of NH Pavilion, the largest performing arts center in the region and considered one of the best outdoor concert venues in the country, was planning to kick off its 2020 season with a bang. The Zac Brown Band was slated to play back-to-back shows starting May 24. Thomas Rhett was going to keep the party rolling with shows on May 29 and 30.

Then came the coronavirus, and with it, orders from governors across the country to prohibit gatherings.

Zac Brown’s shows in Gilford have now been canceled, and Rhett’s shows have been rescheduled to the end of September. Meanwhile, Maren Morris, who was originally scheduled for June 6, will now play on Aug. 30, and a concert featuring co-headliners Ringo Starr and the Avett Brothers has been pushed to June 5, 2021.

The Bank of NH Pavilion, a LiveNation venue, seats nearly 9,000, and its shows are seen as an economic generator for the region, as their concerts attract people from far enough away that they need to stay overnight after the final encore.

Attempts to get comment from Bank of NH Pavilion officials were not immediately successful.

A statement on the venue’s website reads: “ If your event is cancelled, tickets purchased from Ticketmaster or Live Nation will be refunded automatically. If you purchased tickets from any other source, seek your refund at your point of purchase. If your event is rescheduled, tickets purchased for the original event will be honored for the new date. You do not need to do anything on your end.”

The coronavirus presents a particularly perplexing problem for the live entertainment industry. Even if New Hampshire’s prohibitions on gatherings were to be lifted tomorrow, it would still present a complication for the Bank of NH Pavilion, said Karmen Gifford, president of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. She noted that, by the time performers arrive in Gilford, they’ve probably already been on tour for weeks or months.

“It also depends on where their performers are coming from,” she said. It may not make sense for a tour to come to New Hampshire if half of its other dates have been canceled, she said.

And that’s bad news for the other businesses catering to music fans who travel from afar to see a show at the Bank of NH Pavilion. “A lot of the people who come in do stay overnight,” Gifford said.

And one of those places they are likely to stay is at the Fireside Inn and Suites, said Frank Tuscano, the inn’s general manager.

“We’re pretty close, we’re like, right across the street,” Tuscano said. “We do very well. It’s a great partnership between us and them. It brings a lot of revenue in, believe me, and we don’t even have a restaurant.”

Jay Bolduc does have a restaurant. He’s the managing operator at T-Bones and Cactus Jack’s in Laconia. Though it’s a few miles from the venue, he said he sees a noticeable bump in business when there’s a concert down the road. The concerts are helpful, he said, because the shows usually occur during his regular dinner rush – meaning that the extra business from concert-goers comes in the form of an early dinner before the show, or late-night cocktails or takeout orders afterward.

“We get a good benefit on both sides of the show, so not having that season would impact us for sure,” Bolduc said.

Tuscano said he’s been in contact with the venue, and is closely monitoring their cancellations. He said he will be able to keep all of his employees for the next several weeks, and hopes shows will resume sooner rather than later.

Tuscano’s hope is that Bank of NH Pavilion will be able to shift its season this year – if the concerts start later, perhaps they could continue into the fall. “I would appreciate it, I would be able to make up some of the money we are losing right now. I’d love to go to October, I think that would be the best thing for the area.”

Bolduc said that local hospitality businesses are looking at a host of challenges right now, so it would be nice to not have to worry about concerts being postponed.

“It seems to be one more thing that seems to tack on to the struggle,” Bolduc said. “We hope that people will still continue to visit the Lakes Region this summer and frequent all of the businesses in the area.”

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