Crow Bar owner Tom DeGeorge is not in the mood to talk to the people calling about renting his Tampa bar during the Super Bowl.
“I have told every one of them no,” DeGeorge says. “One guy complained that I hadn’t even listened to his offer and my response was ‘I know, and I don’t want to hear it.’”
With local ordinances banning dance floors, reducing capacity by 75% and requiring patrons to wear face masks, DeGeorge says it’s nearly impossible to host a concert in Tampa Bay this year for the Super Bowl. And he’s OK with that.
“It’s not safe to host concerts right now at full capacity and it won’t be until we get through COVID-19,” he tells Billboard.
And yet, about a half-dozen venues in town are moving forward with performances and parties on Super Bowl weekend, including a Catholic Church hosting a tailgating party featuring Flo Rida. Hotel and club WTR Grill + Pool is hosting the biggest events, with a Thursday show by Torey Lanez, Friday show by Steve Aoki and Saturday show with Migos and Diplo playing with 50 Cent, followed by the Qvesoir nightclub in the town’s Ybor City district, which is hosting shows by Kodak Black and Lil Baby, and then the Ritz, which is planning a big Super Bowl bash hosted by Gucci Mane.
The events — which include parties hosted by Rick Ross, Boosie, City Girls and Trick Daddy — fill in a gap left by the absence of OnLocation this year, the NFL’s hospitality and live entertainment partner that was purchased by Endeavor at the beginning of the year. OnLocation decided not to host any VIP events or concerts this year due to COVID-19 and instead focus on ticket sales, which have also been slow.
Tickets are still available for nearly all concerts happening during Super Bowl weekend — as are tickets for the big game, despite a reduced capacity at host Raymond James Stadium to 22,000 (normally 65,000), with 7,500 tickets going to vaccinated health care workers, that was supposed to mean a quiet Super Bowl weekend. DeGeorge said he planned to operate the Crow Bar at 25% capacity and host a few local bands but said he has serious doubts that venues hosting big shows within Tampa’s Ybor City entertainment district will follow the capacity restrictions.
“And that really disturbs the balance of the entire evening and puts the venues that are trying to do the right thing at risk,” DeGeorge says. One problem, he explains, is that the city’s capacity restrictions aren’t being enforced by police and Alcohol and Beverage Control. Since the state’s entertainment restrictions were loosened in October by Florida Govenor Ron DeSantis, images of packed venues and nightclubs have regularly trickled out of Ybor Center — which is home to about 100 clubs, venues, restaurants and retail businesses — and ended up on social media sites and national news broadcasts.
“It can feel like the Twilight Zone here in Florida, where half the people in the state take precautions against the coronavirus and the other half just shrug it off,” DeGeorge said.
Jesse Lawrence with TicketIQ, which sells and distributes sports tickets, said there would have likely been more concerts and events happening at the Super Bowl this year if the hometown team weren’t playing. The people who buy tickets to concerts — the shows at WTR Grill + Pool start at $250 — are often fans visiting from out of town and not locals.
“And that has a domino effect because the people who are deciding if they want to travel for the game decide not to go because they know they won’t get the full Super Bowl experience,” he said.
DeGeorge hopes locals stay home and don’t show up in search of deals, waiting for the price of some of the big tailgate parties and concerts to drop, creating unsafe conditions for the events operating at a lower capacity.
“We really don’t know what is gonna happen with some of these concerts or if people do come out, what enforcement of the capacity issues will look like,” he said. “We’re all just nervously awaiting the weekend and will be happy when it’s over.”