New York Lifts Capacity Restrictions Beginning May 19, Setting Stage for Broadway Reopening

Moulin Rouge Broadway
Courtesy of Global Creatures

New York will lift capacity restrictions beginning on May 19, a move that potentially sets the stage for a Broadway and live theater revival. The new guidelines will also help cinemas in the region bounce back after months of being closed or only operating at limited capacity. Restaurants, museums, salons, gyms and stores will no longer be required to enforce strict limits on the number of people who can enter their venues.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that one capacity restriction that will remain in place, with limits still being mandated on the number of people who can attend events at large outdoor stadiums. Those will remain at 33% capacity.

Even though the rules have been loosened, Broadway isn’t expected to welcome guests back for several weeks, even months. It will take time to get ensembles rehearsed and theaters operational, and tickets have yet to go back on sale. Some insiders doubt that a major revival of Broadway theaters will take place until September and the re-opening is expected to take place in waves, with certain, longer-running shows (think “Hamilton” or “Wicked”) welcoming patrons back first.

“[Broadway] may make their own economic decision as to when they reopen,” Cuomo said.

Unlike movie theaters, Broadway venues have argued that they cannot operate profitably at limited capacity. The economics of putting on a show mean that margins were slim even before the pandemic struck.

The governor cited the rising vaccination rates as part of the justifications for loosening restrictions. Other states in the region, including Connecticut, and New Jersey, will also take the same measures. Socially distancing measures will still be enforced, the governor said.