By Corinne Colbert

Athens NEWS Editor

It’s been a long, lonely pandemic year at The Union. The renowned live music venue on West Union Street in Uptown Athens has been quiet since COVID-19 struck in spring 2020.

“There are so many live music events that ate it besides just our regular weekend shows — our Brew Week guests, Blackout Fest, Lobsterfest,” said manager Myke Linscott. “We missed an entire Homecoming.”

Now that vaccinations have made socializing safer, though, The Union sounds more like its old self. The joint has been jumping since July 2, featuring the expected lineup of musicians across the rock spectrum.

“Once the vaccines became available, we had a conversation about what opening and opening safely looked like,” Linscott said.

One result of that conversation was installation of an air sanitation device in the ventilation system. “It’s just a good long-term upgrade,” Linscott said.

It’s not entirely like old times, though. Shows used to start at 9 p.m. or later; now the doors open at 7 p.m., with music starting at 8 p.m. And you no longer need to pony up cash for the show cover charge — credit cards are accepted at the door.

Both the earlier start time and the credit option have been “enthusiastically received,” said booking agent Scott Winland, with high attendance for the shows so far.

“I believe this is more accommodating to most folks who would like to attend,” he said of early-evening shows, noting that 8 p.m. tends to be a common start time in venues across the state. As for the card reader, “It’s never taken very long to pay at the door, but this does certainly speed up the process.”

Other entertainment could be on offer in the future. Linscott said he wants to do more with the concert space beyond live music.

“Are there OU dance folks who might want to put on a performance here?” he speculated. “When can we get live band karaoke here again?”

Meanwhile, though, he’s just glad to be back in business. “Going from “completely shut all the way down” to “hosting live music” is a big leap and we are super grateful for how patient everyone has been,” he said. “It has been an absolute blast seeing old friends and new faces.”

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