The band Spank the Plank performs at White Hart Pub in Surrey on Friday, June 12. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Bar brings back live music as B.C.’s top doc warns singing spreads COVID-19

‘The hardest part is reminding people that they can’t dance, which isn’t easy,’ pub operator says

Surrey’s White Hart Public House is among the first bars in Metro Vancouver to feature live entertainment in the post-COVID world.

The Newton-area pub welcomed back live bands a couple of weeks ago, starting with “house band” The Wingnuts on June 5.

“I think we’re one of the first bars to have live music again, definitely, because we wanted to get ahead of that curve,” said pub operator George Hart. “We knew we could do it safely, so we figured why not, let’s get it going again.”

For now, measures to stop the virus from spreading include clear plastic sheets hung between tables and encouraging physical distancing, among other rules.

“The hardest part is reminding people that they can’t dance, which isn’t easy,” Hart said with a laugh.

(Story continues below)

At a news conference Monday (June 15), provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked about dancing in nightclubs and bars.

“It is going to be challenging because we know there are some things like dance floors that are not going to happen right now, as well as we know that singing, singing in a group, can be a very dangerous thing for this virus,” Henry said.

“We’ve seen that in a number of places around the world, including recent examples in the States south of us where singing groups in churches, even with physical distancing, have led to transmission of cases, and singing in other situations as well. So those are all things we need to work through, and I know Worksafe is working with the industry to come up with some reasonable guidance for that.”

Restaurants and pubs across the province were allowed to reopen to dine-in guests more than three weeks ago, as part of Phase Two in B.C.’s Restart Plan. Last Thursday (June 11), Henry removed the 50 per cent capacity restriction, allowing restaurant and pub operators to determine their capacity so long as guests are able to physically distance by at least two metres.

On Friday night (June 12) at the White Hart, the band Spank The Plank played a mix of classic rock songs for a few dozen people who paid $10 admission online, through Eric McCauley’s Good Time Bookings page on eventbrite.ca.

“It’s a family-run business, and we want to make sure everyone is safe and follow the proper restrictions put in place by Worksafe,” said McCauley, who books bands at the White Hart.

“We’re sold out tonight, pretty much, and we’re keeping it to around 42 people,” Hart added. “We’re doing advance ticket sales, and one of the shows sold out in an hour, the Tragically Hip tribute, Roadside Attraction (on June 27). Other bands have sold out in a couple of days, and some are selling out at the door. People can line up, six feet apart obviously, and if we have room then they can come in.”

• RELATED STORY: B.C.’s new COVID-19 cases remain low, no deaths since Friday.

Other bands on the calendar this month include Robert Graves Band (June 19), March Hare (June 20), The Rattlers (June 24) and Rob Montgomery/Nadine States (June 30), plus karaoke Tuesdays.

Hart and his family took over operations of the former Hook and Ladder pub site last year.

“We changed the name to White Hart after our soccer team’s stadium, which is White Hart Lane,” said Hart. “It’s an ode to Tottenham (the soccer club in London). My family is from there, I have the tatttoo, we’re diehard fans. In September of 2019 we came up here from Bear Creek (Pub), just a better location, bigger. We renovated it, painted it with Tottenham colours, everything, got the sign up and yeah, we’re ready.”

Spank the Plank drummer Wes Lawrie said it’s fun for the band to again perform “for people who appreciate it.”

Prior to Friday night at the White Hart, his last gig was set for March 16 at a venue in Whistler.

“We were just ready to leave my place, everything loaded, and we got the call to not bother, it was closed, everything was shut down,” Lawrie recalled.

“As a musician this has been very tough, and just very different,” he added. “But it looks like we’re getting going again, and we’re hearing about other gigs happening at some places, so I’m sure we’ll be playing again soon. This is definitely something I haven’t experienced before.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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