Beyond the business closures, jobs lost and universities shut down due to COVID-19 concerns, most Americans are seeing their favorite activities shuttered as well. Restaurants moved to take-out only, the NCAA canceled this summer’s College World Series in Omaha and dozens of artists, both local and national, postponed shows and tours because of the coronavirus. 

However, not all venues are going down without a fight. The Bay is spearheading an initiative to move concerts and community events to an online platform to allow fans to enjoy their favorite acts from the safety of their laptop screen.

This initiative is called “Community Can’t Be Canceled,” and it allows The Bay to reach an audience that extends beyond Lincoln city limits and keeps the staff, performers and audience safe. Shayne Pearson, The Bay’s general manager for the last nine years, said he hopes to use the pandemic to create something significant for the city of Lincoln. 

“That idea of creating and supporting our community has always been at the core of The Bay,” Pearson said. “Seeing all the cancellations around the world, we wanted to point back to things that can continue, so we started using the hashtag ‘CantCancelCommunity.’” 

Pearson said he and the rest of the staff want to keep producing the content and events The Bay is known for, just in an online space. Pearson said that includes delivering cameras, skateboards and instruments to people’s homes. 

“This digital side of The Bay has been dubbed Bayside Online and will include everything from virtual skateboard lessons, social media takeovers from professional skaters and musicians, digital art lessons, music lessons, live-streamed concerts, an evening support line and much more,” Pearson said.

The Bay has undergone several major changes to the venue in recent months. It was previously running its own coffee bar as well as housing the skate shop Precision Skateboards. Pearson saw an opportunity to expand The Bay’s collaborations by closing its coffee bar and allowing a second location of Goldenrod Pastries to take its place.

“It feels like a natural partnership,” Pearson said. “We [The Bay and Goldenrod Pastries] both have the foundational goal of creating and supporting community.” 

Beyond the new partnership with Goldenrod Pastries, Precision Skateboards separated from The Bay in June of 2019. This allowed The Bay to transform the space previously used by Precision Skateboards into a larger concert venue, which provides a space to host the Bayside Online classes.

After two weeks of online content being released on Bayside Online, Lauren Farris, The Bay’s art manager, said she’s thrilled with the reception so far. Over 300 people signed up for at least one of the virtual meetings held during the first week.

“It's been an interesting way to try out lessons and activities that we can keep and/or recreate in the physical space once we re-open,” Farris said.

Caden Pearson, The Bay’s communities manager, has been working and volunteering at The Bay since it opened in 2011. Now, he is helping with the musical side of Bayside Online with tutorials on how to play instruments or write songs and classes that discuss playlist curation and the importance of talking about music.

“We wanted to incorporate that [live show] aspect into Bayside Online by hosting livestreams on the weekends,” Caden said. “We felt it was important to include structured challenges and tutorials as well.”

Shayne and the rest of The Bay welcomes anyone to participate in The Bay’s online content roster. It’s free and open to all skill levels. The first batch of content was released on April 6, with additional content posted five days a week going forward.

The Bay has already seen the benefits of Bayside Online and hopes to continue using it even when the pandemic comes to an end, according to Shayne.

“Our team is already seeing the value of making The Bay accessible to people beyond Lincoln,” Shayne said. “Our team is approaching this time with the mindset of not just getting by, but using it to create something significant.”

Shayne said he has been thrilled to see several venues and musicians also making a shift to the online concert format. He said The Bay doesn’t take any credit for this shift, and they’re excited to be creating alongside those artists during the challenging times ahead.

“We have always believed strongly that collaboration [is greater than] competition,” Shayne said. “So many people in Lincoln have that same outlook, and we'll be a lot better off because of it once we all unlock the doors again.”