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Gig workers struggle as EBR bars reopen without live, indoor music

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BATON ROUGE – This is the first Friday night bar owners in East Baton Rouge Parish can serve customers inside again. A low percentage of positive COVID-19 cases is allowing this, but one industry is still being muted.

Those bar owners can’t host musicians. Live indoor music is still banned in EBR, and those that set up the shows are finding they’ll be out of a job for months to come.

“We've seen cancellations already for events that would normally be held as late as April 2021,” Russ Bryant, who co-owns Premier Sound Services, said

Bryant’s warehouse is full of sound production gear that has been sitting untouched for months.

“Basically since March 14 it's been completely non-existent for our industry,” Bryant said.

Without live entertainment work for those setting up the shows, and making sure bands are heard has come to a halt.

“We had 30 engineers that we had on call that we would use all the time and now we're down to one. Everyone else has taken other jobs,” Bryant said.

Many are feeling this loss. Live music and Louisiana go hand in hand.

“Music is woven into the fabric of every piece of life in south Louisiana,” Bryant said.

Bryant says the parish may stay quiet for a while, though. It's not just bar gigs that are shuttered, events that draw in large crowds are already pulling the plug.

"A lot of us are seeing Mardi Gras balls for next year already canceling because they can't plan for them. They are afraid to even put things in motion because then they might have to do things like pay deposits and do all this work and find out they can't actually do it,” Bryant said.

Bryant says he wants the opportunity to put on entertainment safely. He says they are now using UV lights to sanitize all microphones.

“To not just get us back to work but all of our friends that perform music, our subcontractors that handle things like lighting and staging and stagehands, and all of the nonprofits we help in the community,” Bryant said.

But getting back to work, Bryant fears will take some time.

"[The industry] is in a state of complete disarray right now, it's not going to come back right away. We need to start rebuilding it now so that we can all get back to life as we want it to be as soon as it's safe to do so."

The Regional Manager at the Raising Cane's River Center told WBRZ three Mardi Gras balls set for next year have already been canceled so far.

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