rosebowl music

Co-owner Charlie Harris paints table tops Thursday in preparation of live music outside at the Rose Bowl Tavern in Urbana.

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URBANA — It wasn’t always easy, but Rose Bowl Tavern has survived the winter.

After closing temporarily in November, the downtown Urbana tavern will once against host live music this evening with an outdoor concert in the parking lot.

“We’re holding onto our sanity,” co-owner Charlie Harris. “More or less, we made it through the winter.”

During the winter, the Rose Bowl continued to host concerts virtually, livestreaming performances from local acts.

“In terms of connecting with our faithfuls and reaching people and continuing to work with artists, and continuing to tone our skills in terms of production and entertainment and media, it was useful and a valuable learning experience,” Harris said.

But as a business venture, he said, livestreaming was not sustainable.

“There was no way to make it sustainable,” Harris said. “We survived on the back of a loan, which no business ever wants to do.”

The pandemic has been particularly tough for performing-arts venues, Harris said.

“We really don’t do anything except try to pack people in and sell as many drinks as we can in a short period of time,” he said. “There was really not much for us to do in terms of creating revenue.”

Which is why he’s so excited to bring back live, in-person music today.

“It feels surreal. It feels blissful,” Harris said. “For myself and all our team at the Rose Bowl and all the musicians that we work with, this is one of the things that gives our lives meaning.”

Kilborn Alley Blues will begin playing at 7 p.m., and there will be a $10 cover charge.

The band will be playing in the parking lot, similarly to last summer’s setup.

“Last year, in late June, we set up in the parking lot, and we were totally, utterly, unprepared,” Harris said. “We sort of shot from the hip and got it done.”

This year, they’re able to use equipment from last year, such as the large tent, chairs and tables, and they’ve had time to prepare.

And Harris said he was happy that the CDC dropped its guidelines for wearing masks outside for people who are vaccinated.

“We were glad to be part of a movement of establishments that were doing our best to promote public health,” he said. “We’re also very glad to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and not needing to be enforcing these COVID-era rules. We do hope people are vaccinated and still practicing good hand-washing.”

Friday’s show is the start of a busy live-music season for the Rose Bowl.

“We’re kicking it off Friday, and then we’ll have music every day in May,” Harris said.

“It’s not the case that there’s a cover for every show, but we do strongly encourage people to bring cash or be prepared to tip the bands, because we need to support the musicians and artists in our community.”


Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).

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