ROANOKE — Jim Amstutz says it’s time to take back part of the lifestyle that Americans enjoyed just six months ago. To that end, music returns to The Cottage Event Center on Sept. 25. Country rock band Sugar Shot and lead singer Jen Fisher will play a 7:30 p.m. show
The Cottage kept the music going to the final moments before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, with a March 13 concert featuring rockabilly guitarist Kenny Taylor. After that, it was lights out.
“With all the restrictions that came out we were closed completely both for public and private events for almost two months,” said Jim Amstutz, a co-owner of The Cottage. “We’ve since done a couple weddings. We’re trying to limit the size of events as much as we realistically can.”
Fisher, of Sugar Shot, said the band also is sensitive to the public’s concerns.
“In terms of performing during the pandemic, we are highly sensitive to the fact that for many this is a frightening time to enjoy live music,” she said in an email. “We want our audience to be safe and healthy by following the guidelines outlined by local health officials. Our hope is that people are able to come together, safely distanced, to enjoy a great night of country music.
“We know that music is a powerful emotional boost for those who have felt isolated and lonely during the pandemic. We love that, through music, we have the opportunity to bring a little sense of normalcy and fun into the lives of our fans.”
Smaller tables have been placed, with more room around the venue to allow for social distancing. Guests are encouraged to wear masks when entering and whenever not in their seat. “The staff is wearing masks even if the guests aren’t,” Amstutz said.
Fewer tables means fewer paying guests. That adds pressure to a bottom line that has felt the stress of a half a year without income. Amstutz confirms the challenge, but won’t elaborate. In fact, The Cottage will continue directing a portion of ticket sales to local charities. The March concert was a benefit for Honor Flight Northeast Indiana. The Sept. 25 show will benefit the Roanoke Public Library. Looking further ahead, an Oct. 23 concert featuring Junk Yard Band will benefit the Roanoke Police Department.
“The town budgets being what they are, sometimes there are things like new laptops that aren’t in the town’s budget,” Amstutz said.
“Fortunately my business partner Gale and I have other business interests that are our livelihood and we run the event center as much as anything to give back to the community,” Amstutz said. Gale Mann and Amstutz are co-owners.
The Cottage opened in March 2012 and hosted the first concert that August. True to form, it was a benefit concert. “We had a guy who did a Jimmy Buffett tribute act and called himself Captain Jack and I still stay in touch with him,” Amstutz said. Today, Captain Jack is performing in Key West, Florida.
“We are determined we are going to make it through this thing,” Amstutz said. “With the social distancing this isn’t going to be as lucrative as it has been but we feel like if somebody doesn’t take the step to bring things back to normal everybody’s going to wait for somebody else.”
Sugar Shot has performed several times at The Cottage, though with a different lineup. Lead singer/rhythm guitarist Fisher fronts the current group. She joins Jonah Leatherman, lead guitar and vocals; Tommy Myers, bass and vocals; Gary Martin, pedal steel guitar; and John Foxworthy, drums and vocals.
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and music begins at 7:30. Barbecue pulled pork sandwiches will be available for purchase and a cash bar will be available. Tickets are available by calling 260-483-3508, or online at cottageeventcenter.com, or at John’s Meat Market just up the path at 966 Locust Drive in Roanoke. Tickets are $12.