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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Tower Theatre operators Stephen Tyler and Chad Whitehead have worked every day of the pandemic to find new ways to keep their live entertainment venue financially viable. Now, with the advent of viable vaccines, they are ready to increase their schedule and the number of people they allow into their shows.

Thursday they told gathered news media that they will increase their shows starting slowly in May and then steadily, cautiously increase their offerings in size and maximum capacity from June through August. But, they feel it’s still a tenuous time for live venues.

Tower Theatre
Tower Theatre operators Stephen Tyler (L) and Chad Whitehead explain their next phases of business recovery from the pandemic 5-6-21. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

In May and June they will continue to operate as they are now with only 20% of their capacity being used for each event and strong measures being taken to avoid COVID exposure for those attending.

But, in July they will start to increase the numbers they allow in for parties and live shows and even give some free concerts to the public.

“Very painful”

The wreckage of the pandemic has not just been limited to the physical effects on individuals but it has devastated some businesses and seriously weakened others.

“It’s been an incredible season since last March,” said Whitehead. “It’s been very painful, not just for the live music industry, but for musicians, and for communities and fan bases who love live music like we do.”

According to Tyler, the complex streams of touring acts shut off almost immediately in March of 2020 when the public started becoming aware of the magnitude of the COVID-19 virus.

Suddenly the entire future of individual lives came into question as well as the viability of in-person venues of any sort, even grocery stores. And the loss of any kind of certain future hit the entertainment industry hard.

“We’re always looking 60 to 90 days out. Like, this whole industry lives in the future. And, when the future is uncertain it’s really hard,” said Tyler.

Paying it forward

Whitehead said that because of the public monies provided through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant on the federal level and even local monies given from the City of Oklahoma City back in August of 2020, they are ready to pay forward that to the community.

And, they will do that with a series of free shows.

“So, our plan on those weekends from mid July up into the first part of August is to start ramping up the capacity of Tower Theater,” said Whitehead. “The way we’re going to do that is with a series of free concerts that are going to be open to the public.”

He continued, “They’ll be on Fridays and Saturdays and late July some Sundays. We’ll be announcing some really fun artists that are near and dear to our hearts.”

Tower Theatre
Stephen Tyler (L) and Chad Whitehead explain their plans for safely bringing back live events throughout the summer. The stage in Ponyboy where they were sitting will become active again. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)


Tyler said that one of the ways for the city to become a safer place is to continue to push to get more people vaccinated.

The Tower Theatre will be the site of yet more dates when they partner with Walgreens to vaccinate.

The next vaccine event will be May 8 and the next one after that will be June 5.

He said that almost all of their staff have been vaccinated.

As well, they will continue to have permanent hand sanitizers throughout the facility and will continue to welcome masks even when they are not requiring them for visitors.


Their bar, Ponyboy, will increase in capacity someone like the Tower Theater as they move toward opening their bar again. Currently they only have table service to keep people from getting into very close proximity at the bar.

“Ponyboy will start to reintegrate live music and dance elements throughout the summer at about the same schedule as Tower Theater,” said Whitehead.

“And again, none of us can predict the future,” he added. “But, our plan is to have everything up to full strength by August.”

Last Updated May 7, 2021, 12:02 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor