New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

The State House set to reopen Friday

Music venue was shuttered because of COVID-19 for nearly 19 months

- By Mark Zaretsky


They’re turning the lights back on at The State House music venue at State and Chapel streets this week.

That’s nearly 19 months after owners Slate Ballard and Carlos Wells — along with the owners of most other Connecticu­t night spots — were forced to close because of COVID-19.

After a few white-knuckle months of trying to negotiate the pandemic with no business coming in, the first show is Friday, featuring Kal Marks, Space Camp and Them Airs.

“It’s a little bit surreal” after a year and a half of being closed, said Wells as he did work to help get the place ready. “It’s been a rollercoas­ter ride.”

During that period, there’s been a number of times when Wells wondered whether The State House, which opened in the long-vacant former Horowitz Brothers fabric store at 310 State St. in 2018, would ever reopen. The first time he wondered was on March 13, 2020 — the day it was ordered closed.

The State House is one of the last music venues in Greater New Haven to reopen, with that second chance made possible in part by a $116,000 federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant obtained through the Small Business Administra­tion.

Similar grants have

helped fuel the reopening of a number of other area venues, including Toad’s Place, the College Street Music Hall, the Space Ballroom and Cafe Nine.

But when bars across Connecticu­t were given the go-ahead to reopen as of May 19, and drinks began to flow as crowds began to flow back into them, The State House remained dark, along with a few other venues, including Toad’s Place at that point.

“I’m excited,” even though “we’re still still in the middle of a pandemic,” said Ballard. But “I think people want to come out and get excited about live music again.”

He called reopening “a mixed bag,” saying, “it’s wonderful in a sense and it’s a little nervewrack­ing. We’re not really sure what to expect.”

Wells said it might still be a few months before The State House can resume bringing in some of the internatio­nal acts it has previously been known for — many of which were only booked in Connecticu­t by them.

The State House will comply with the city’s order requiring patrons and employees to wear masks indoors and will require all patrons to show proof of vaccinatio­n or the results of a COVID-19 test within the past three days, he said.

Ballard and Wells both praised their landlord, Beacon Communitie­s, for being willing to work with them to iron out issues and help get The State House open again.

“We worked it out,” said Ballard.

“These guys appreciate what we do,” said Wells.

Beacon Senior Property Manager

Romulo Samaniego, who stopped by late Wednesday morning, agreed.

“We are thrilled” to have The State House back, Samaniego said. “We’ve been supportive of them throughout this pandemic time. We understand their plight. We believe in their community initiative­s and their importance in the community.”

Having The State House back open in a property that has come to be viewed by some as vacant over the past year — adjacent to a parking lot that’s currently clogged with mountains of uncollecte­d recyclable­s , “is definitely going to be an enhancemen­t,” Samaniego said.

“We hope their neighbor will cooperate,” he said.

Among the other upcoming shows at The State House are Lil Xan on Saturday; Ladies soul on Oct. 8; Seltzer Fest on Oct. 9; The Most (Return Show) w/ Nikita, Zanders, also on Oct. 9; Vundabar on Oct. 24, and Narrow

Head, Soul Blind and waveform* on Oct. 30.

Tickets for Friday are $10 in advance or $12 day-of-show. Doors open at 7 p.m.

 ?? Hearst Connecticu­t Media file photo ?? Carlos Wells, left, and Slate Ballard, owners of the 300-seat performanc­e music venue, The State House, in a photo from 2018.
Hearst Connecticu­t Media file photo Carlos Wells, left, and Slate Ballard, owners of the 300-seat performanc­e music venue, The State House, in a photo from 2018.

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