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After impacts from the COVID-19 lockdown closed the curtains at the Southwest Florida Event Center in early 2020 and the building was for sale, the Bonita Springs venue is reopening and resuming shows, its owners announced Wednesday.

“We always believed in ‘chasing unicorns’—bigger talent possibly not fit for a venue our size. The time has come to start chasing unicorns again,” owners Jennifer and Richard Shanahan said today via a news release. “We are ready to embrace our loyal patrons who have encouraged us to bring the music back to life in SW Florida.”

After the pandemic triggered postponement and cancellation of concerts in March 2020 because of logistical issues and “so many unknowns,” the Shanahans made the difficult decision two months later to permanently cease operations at their Southwest Florida Event Center on the southeast corner of Bonita Beach Road and Imperial Parkway. But with extensive restructuring, the couple is ready to welcome back for encores musical artists such as America, Melissa Etheridge, Amy Grant, Los Lobos, Wayne Newton, The Outlaws, Three Dog Night and Steve Tyrell. A schedule of specific events has not been announced yet, though.

“Throughout the break in the music, the SW Florida Event Center has not wavered in its mission to bring an intimate venue with extraordinary international talent to Southwest Florida,” according to the news release. “The last two years have been difficult to be away from the hustle of the concert and event business. Considerable time has been spent evaluating the challenges of the industry moving into 2022. Safety will be our number one priority for all.”

The primary goal is to look out for ticket holders, so the 27,000-square-foot venue will accommodate 200 fewer patrons per show, the Shanahans said. The main theater, which opened in 2016 in a highly visible former pharmacy outparcel at Imperial Bonita Plaza, seats about 900 without social distancing.

The Shanahans are focused on attracting even bigger musical talent and providing a fine-dining experience, they said. “We hope to once again be a venue of choice for weddings, private events, business meetings and fundraisers. Thank you, Southwest Florida, for welcoming us back. Let’s rock n’ roll!”

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