‘Keep the music alive’: Popular Charlotte music venue to require masks

CHARLOTTE — The Evening Muse in NoDa is leading the charge to require masks for all guests following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new mask guidelines announcement on Tuesday.

“Live music is part of the healing process of all of this,” owner Joe Kuhlmann said. “That is what is driving us to do whatever it takes to stay open, to welcome everybody we can and try to keep the music alive and rocking and rolling.”

Evening Muse was forced to close for 421 days during the height of the pandemic. Wednesday night’s show featuring the jazz band Sunny Side of New Orleans was the first featuring the music venue’s new mask policy.

“We are just trying to make smart choices,” Kuhlmann said. “Kind of the rationale that has come to me is how many people have died from wearing a mask? Zero. How many lives could be saved by wearing a mask? Countless.”

The CDC is telling people living in areas of substantial and high community spread to mask up. According to the latest data, that’s everyone in the Charlotte area, except for Watauga County. Despite the high metrics, Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris said there is not going to be a mask mandate -- for now.

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“I am not ready to issue a mandate at this point,” she said. “I would like to see the community step up and get vaccinations.”

All of that could change by Thursday afternoon when Gov. Roy Cooper holds a news conference. If it doesn’t, health leaders may ask the city of Charlotte and towns in Mecklenburg County if they want to put in place a mandate of their own.

In the meantime, Harris is hoping businesses will once again require people to wear face coverings.

“It is a way of protecting their own employees so they could keep their businesses open,” she said. “But it is also a way of protecting their patrons and the community at large.”

Kuhlmann said masks are a small inconvenience.

“The big part of live music is togetherness, so being able to do what we can to keep people in here, keep people safe, keep people healthy, we feel like it is our responsibility to lead the charge,” he said.

(Watch the video below: Owner of NoDa performing arts venue frustrated over lack of COVID-19 relief)