Karaoke (copy)

Karaoke is returning to bars and restaurants around Colorado Springs.

For years, Legends Rock Bar was the place to be on a Friday night. The southeast Colorado Springs haunt routinely filled to capacity with 268 people. The main attraction? Amateur singers belting out their good or bad versions of “Country Roads” or “Total Eclipse of the Night.”

Then karaoke was shut down, like so many things, by the coronavirus pandemic starting in March. Even as bars and restaurants have reopened, the activity that relies on sharing microphones and singing, which may project respiratory droplets, was predicted to be one of the last events to return.

“We thought (karaoke) was over,” Ronny Lynch, who runs karaoke nights under Third Leg Entertainment, said. “There was a time we didn’t know if it would come back.”

Meanwhile, Lynch began brainstorming ways to safely host a favorite pastime. He’d glad he did.

Bars and restaurants were notified last month that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment would allow karaoke as long as establishments followed rules for indoor events, according to El Paso County Public Health spokeswoman Michelle Hewitt.

The CDPHE also notes this on its website: “Research and the CDC suggest that activities like singing may project respiratory droplets in greater quantity and over greater distance, increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, particularly with prolonged exposure.”

Karaoke might be back, but it doesn’t come without concerns.

“Although karaoke is allowed,” Hewitt says, “it is an activity that adds a risk of exposure so it is important that all customers follow the guidance on proper social distancing and that people who are sick and/or have COVID-19 symptoms stay home.”

Bars and karaoke jockeys appear to be taking it slow. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, you could find karaoke at 20 bars around Colorado Springs on a Friday or Saturday night. Now, it’s more like 10. Places such as Thunder and Buttons, Hatch Cover and Deuces Wild Brewery are having abbreviated karaoke nights.

At Legends, a karaoke night looks much different with only 50 people allowed inside and a closing time of 10 p.m.

“We’re happy to be back,” Lynch said. “But it feels like we’re barely open. We’re at a crawl.”

And there’s all the rules, which are posted on social media so customers know what to expect, with the title “Karaoke Done Safely.”

Microphones are cleaned between each singer, who must wear provided latex gloves while using the mic. Social distancing doesn’t just apply for seated patrons; it’s also for duets. Customers also have the option to text their song choices to hosts to cut down on physical interactions.

It might not compare to the pre-pandemic karaoke nights, but Lynch says many patrons are thankful for the chance to get out and sing in some form.

He was eager to bring karaoke back because of how many people love it and “latch onto it.”

“Karaoke has always been a staple for a lot of these venues,” he said. “People really connect to it. It’s an expression of freedom in some ways and that freedom was taken away.”

For that freedom to be had now and in the future, Lynch says it will require everyone following safety precautions.

“If you’re going to do it, take every possible precaution you can,” he said. “I hope and pray everyone in this business does everything in their power to be safe.”

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