Why New York shut down faster than London

Why New York shut down faster than London


norman lebrecht

March 12, 2020

Two reasons:

1 Insurers

2 Lawyers


Carnegie, the Met and other venues were advised they would not be covered in the event that patrons or staff fell seriously ill on their premises.

Lawyers were hovering already, waiting for a test-case.

Nothing to do with much-repeated ‘concern for our visitors’. More to do with concern for finances.



  • Pierre says:

    No need to be so pessimistic 😉 – customer care and finances go hand in hand in these types pf situations.

  • Has=been says:

    Many people and organizations will be adversely and tragically effected by this health issue. There is no room for cynicism.

  • Olassus says:

    Bravo, Norman.

  • Jay says:

    How true …it is all about money and lawsuits .
    Other reasons smell of hypocrisy

  • Joel A Stein says:

    Thanks for this info-I subscribe to the MET, the BSO, the New York Phil and donate to Carnegie and I have not heard from any of the organizations.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Mr. Lebrecht is not being cynical. He understands the American legal system and psyche. It has absolutely nothing to do with concern for audience members. The right thing is done kicking and screaming, albeit behind closed doors. Bravo, Governor Cuomo.

  • Ron Swanson says:

    The governor of New York state has banned gatherings over 500 people. Insurance companies and lawyers are rather moot now.

    • Save the MET says:

      Gelb wasn’t closing until Governor Cuomo forced the closure. All the press coming out of his office was that they planned to remain open. Then the shoe fell.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    Kennedy Center in DC is still open as of this writing.

    What they are waiting for?

    I have tickets for Don Giovanni this weekend, but I will be careful (i.e stay home).

    But since ‘Già la mensa è preparata’…

  • Paul Dawson says:

    Concern for patrons (visitors) is completely compatible with points 1 and 2. Insurers naturally require the venues to take reasonable care of their patrons, as does the law. The alternative would be for the venues to tell patrons “You enter at your own risk.” I doubt that the Netrebkos etc. of this world would be thrilled at performing in such circumstances.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    The Philadelphia Orchestra has also cancelled the concerts.

    • Hmus says:

      They have cancelled concerts thorugh March 26th as of today March 12th – no news yet beyond that the we have received in email. However the Governor of PA has closed all schools, movie theaters and gyms in Montgomery County, directly contiguous with Philadelphia county…

  • Vaquero357 says:

    Sure, the specter of legal action is always hovering. Let’s say it’s a combination of 4 things: welfare of (1) patrons, (2) staff/cast, (3) proactive CYA against litigation, and (4) the Governor of NY state just imposed a ban on events involving more than 500 people.

  • Cyril says:

    I find this reasoning a bit absurd. I think each closure is partly dependent on the ones right before it – the NBA had just abruptly cancelled its season, followed by soccer, baseball and hockey. The arts orgs are following the same rationale. There’s a snowballing effect. I don’t think it has much to do with liability and it’s hard to imagine how courts would blame arts organizations for pandemic deaths. Public health officials have been advising for days, even weeks that people should avoid large gatherings. The onus is now on individuals to adapt their behavior accordingly.

  • Gustavo says:

    Consider the Spanish flu 1918-1920, which hit a completely uninformed world population recovering from World War I.

    Donald Trump’s grandfather was among the first victims.

    There was no cure.

    Lawyers, insurers, doctors were infesting eachother.

    Many died.

    Some survived.

    Hitler, Stalin.

    Think about it.

  • SMH says:

    Norman, you might consider writing about the many hourly workers and support staff that are affected by these venue closures. Also the many freelance musicians whose concerts have been cancelled and are now without pay due to force majeure clauses in their contracts. Such writing might elicit compassion instead of feeding the trolls. Please consider.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    Never mind. The Kennedy Center announced closing as well – not surprising. And Broadway is also closed.

    It’s going to be a wild ride.

    • V.Lind says:

      Broadway is. I was shocked to read this in The Guardian this morning in an article about Broadway:

      *And earlier this week, Scott Rudin, the prolific producer currently backing a record-breaking revival of West Side Story, slashed ticket prices for five shows to $50 (Broadway tickets usually sell for around $200). “These are shows that are playing to fantastically healthy business,” Rudin told The Hollywood Reporter of his decision. “My partners and I want the buildings full – even, and especially, during this crisis – and this is the way to ensure it … I want no deadwood in these buildings – and my colleagues and I want to give people the chance to see these shows when they otherwise might not be able to afford tickets or to even get tickets.” *

      Talk about someone tone-deaf: “might not be able to…even get tickets”?

  • crep gge says:

    Do you even read your own posts? One article dated March 12th says NY shut down more quickly than London due to a litigious climate and not for patron safety. The next post mourns the death of someone in the industry due to the virus. You don’t see the irony in the juxtaposition of those two posts?
    -La Scala mourns casting director, lost to the virus
    -Why New York shut down faster than London

  • Willymh says:

    This would suggest a certain irresponsibility on the part of venues, promoters and companies in the UK who should/ would be doing it, if I read the message in this post correctly, purely through altruism. Shame on those in the UK then.

  • Morgan says:

    Perhaps you chatter only tongue-in-cheek. The Governor of New York and Mayor of New York City told all these institutions to shutter and many more. Nothing to do with the lawyers or insurers, at least not in any direct manner.

  • Monsoon says:

    Tomorrow’s news today: Everything is shut down for at least a month.

  • David Moran says:

    oh, please, let us always think the worst, the very worst, the basest and most cynical and worst-faith, the least-humane, regardless of common sense or foresight, in keeping with these times

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    That would explain a lot of things. It is astonishing how life, including cultural life, went on with only necessary adjustments during second world war when at any moment there could be a heavy bombardment. This would never happen today. The cultural institutions that have been with us for decades or even centuries would never survive a war or pandemic lasting five years. We are much more at the mercy of fate than our grandparents, who have maintained great traditions through unimaginable challenges.

  • Emil says:

    You’re making it sound as if insurers are doing that completely arbitrarily, without any reason of care. Of course insurers do that because they consider risk is too high. So it’s not a different cause – it’s an intermediate cause.

  • Karl says:


    Boston Lyric Opera has shut down. Odyssey Opera shut down. Jordan Hall concerts are cancelled.

  • Anon says:

    Norman, please start a list of companies ignoring force majeure, doing the right thing and paying their freelance artists. We need to apply public pressure!