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Coronavirus is forcing venues to make tough decisions

Coronavirus causing some venues to close
Posted at 11:13 PM, Mar 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-13 23:13:38-04

FORT MYERS — As more cases of Coronavirus show up across our area, theaters and event centers are faced with a tough decision: Close and cancel shows, or stay open, and potentially put guests at risk?

The Barbara Mann Center in Fort Myers is staying open for now. It went ahead with opening night of the new show "Miss Saigon" on Friday, and plenty of people came out to see it.

“I brought gloves," said Vera Conner, who came out to see the show. She said it was a last minute decision.

“I had just recently had emergency surgery a couple of weeks ago, so my immune system is down, but my girlfriend invited me, so I was like what the heck, I’m coming," said Conner.

With the Coronavirus spreading, Barbara Mann put out a statement, saying it's cleaning the venue thoroughly, but for now, it is staying open.

But down in Naples, it’s a different story.

“We’ve decided to go ahead and take it week by week. We know that our audiences are very concerned about health and safety, and so that’s our number one priority," said Bryce Alexander, the CEO of the Naples Players Theater.

The theater has suspended all shows, and plans to reassess next Wednesday. Alexander said it was not an easy decision.

“The financial impact from canceling shows is pretty significant. It will be about $300,000 if we refund every ticket, just for this show," said Alexander.

Alexander hopes many people will not ask for refunds, but instead leave it as a tax-deductible donation. Meanwhile, Conner said she doesn’t plan to make those kind of drastic changes.

“I’m not going to shut my life down because of this," said Conner.

Alexander told us arts and culture contribute more than $2 billion to the Florida economy every year, so while he’s shutting down his theater out of caution, he understands why others might not want to.