Updated: Oct 7, 2021
Photo: Sane Wynn
In 2015, Seth and Nate Vaill opened a music venue run by musicians, for musicians and music fans on Kenmore Blvd, Akron’s music row. It became a successful business that, by all accounts, would be sustainable for years to come.
Then came March 2020.
The Rialto Theatre’s certain and predictable future went out the window as COVID-19 rapidly spread across the United States. Suddenly every show, event and activity was cancelled, and the concrete foundation the theatre’s future rested on turned to quicksand. Instead of planning for the next show, the Vaill brothers found themselves preparing for an uncertain world of unprecedented mandates, restrictions, guidelines and lockdowns.
“The past year and a half has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride,” Seth said. “At the end of every day we had to ask ourselves if our business could even survive through the next day.”
The Vaills debated whether to continue as a live music venue or change their business model altogether. Ultimately, these musically minded brothers held tight to the vision for The Rialto Theatre, adapting however possible to make their venue a safe place for artists, concert goers, and employees
“Many of the touring artists include a special COVID-19 clause in their contracts outlining what precautions must be taken in order for them to perform here,” Vaill explained. “The artists want to stay healthy so they can stay on the road. They also want to keep their audiences healthy.”
In response, The Rialto Theatre joined more than a dozen regional music clubs and theaters that, in September, began requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test for entry into their establishments. Ultimately, the measures have enabled venues to keep their doors open while offering a consistent, united message to their shared customer base. In July, The Rialto Theatre began hosting live music again and continues to evolve, renewing its owners’ optimism for the future of their business and the Boulevard. By the end of 2021, the owners will launch The Rialto Living Room, an intimate venue located in the front of the Rialto building with a second bar that will serve food and host solo performers.
If its October schedule is any indication, it promises to be bigger and better than ever. From the pop/soul stylings of American Idol runner up Clark Beckham to the no-nonsense hard rock of national touring act Thelma and the Sleaze, there is something from everyone coming up at The Rialto.
Kick off the weekend this Friday, Oct. 8, at The Rialto with a double album release party featuring Mudhouse Gang and Kenmore’s own The Tenants, followed by PIN 2 HOT, Samantha Grace and Ed Potokar’s “Sound Dart” on Saturday, Oct. 9.
For a complete concert schedule and tickets, visit therialtotheatre.com.