The O2 boss on reopening the venue: “We’re working really hard to create the best possible fan experience”

The London arena is set to host a socially distanced gig by Squeeze in December

The O2 VP and general manager Steve Sayer has spoken about the plans to reopen the venue as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the music industry.

Squeeze will be the first band to perform at the London arena since March when they hold a socially distanced gig there in December.

For that show, the venue’s capacity will be reduced from 20,000 to 4,700 to allow for seats between each group of ticket-holders to remain empty. One-way routes for getting to bars and toilets and back to seating areas will also be in operation.

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Speaking to Music Week, Sayer said the team behind the venue had spent the time since March thinking about how they could reopen the venue safely. “We want to demonstrate to promoters and artists that venues are ready to reopen and start building customer confidence,” he said.

Acknowledging that running gigs with such a reduced capacity isn’t viable in the long or medium-term for any venue, he said that The O2 wanted to “build back towards” touring shows before they hopefully return next year.

The O2
The O2 (Picture: Getty Images)

“It’s about giving our employees and the supply chain an opportunity to work, testing our measures and procedures and bringing some life back into The O2,” Sayer explained. “We are in conversation with a number of promoters about different format shows between now and the end of the year, but also in the early part of 2021.”

He went on to explain that The O2 had invested in “a lot of new cleaning technology”, including electrostatic foggers that will envelop surfaces with anti-bacterial spray that is effective for up to 30 days.

“We’re working really hard to ensure that we can create the best possible fan experience,” he said. “Health and safety at shows [was already] absolutely paramount and this focus on biomedical health and safety has really come to the fore now as well.”

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A number of tour dates have already been announced to take place at The O2 next year and Sayer said that ticket sales had been “a little bit slower” than before the pandemic. “That is a clear indicator of consumer confidence, but that will come back,” he said.

“Younger demographics are much more amenable to getting back to shows quickly. Squeeze will be a really good test with a slightly older demographic, but there is definitely appetite out there.”

Last month (September 30), the Music Venue Trust declared a state of red alert as hundreds of live music spaces face permanent closure across the UK.

“The Government has put all its eggs in one basket and has no back-up plan to prevent the complete collapse of this entire cultural sector, placing at risk over 200,000 jobs and billions of pounds of economic activity,” MVT CEO Mark Davyd told NME.

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