Deb Smith ventured out onto Fanatics’ roof for this aerial picture. Photo by Deb Smith

BY DEB AND TIM SMITH
As we drove into Lima from the east end of town, there was certainly a sense of anticipation about what we might encounter. After all, we were approaching the scene of something that had never happened before in New York State. Fanatics Pub was hosting our state’s first outdoor drive-in concert of the post-pandemic era.

It was truly a red letter day for the Town of Lima. Local music promoter and restaurateur Jim Shelly had come up with an idea that our publisher Chris Carosa very aptly described as a “back to the future” tale when we broke this story in late May.

A few months ago Jim Shelly, owner of Fanatics Pub on West Main Street in Lima, had an idea about how to cope with the Covid-19 crisis and bring the community together at the same time. His idea was a series of outdoor concerts with carhop-style food service that could be set up in such a way as to comply with all of the safety standards in place to deal with the pandemic.

As Jim launched this initiative from the ground up, he needed to secure three levels of government approval. He started with the Town and Village of Lima, then went through the Livingston County authorities, prior to ultimately receiving state approval from Albany.

We’ll review the logistics of how everything was arranged momentarily, but we wanted to focus on the people part first. It’s hard to put into words the sense of small-town Americana that prevailed over this event. There was a mutual sense of this being a first step back to normalcy and a shared feeling that we’re all going to get through this together.

As might be expected, there was also an air of bizarrerie as never before in our lifetimes had we been able to say, “This is the first time we’ve been out around people in three months.” It made that first step back to normalcy feel even more intense and invigorating.

We saw Tom Jamieson from high school, and Elsie Mannix from the bank and Mark Amorese from the real estate office. Town officials were there such as Lima Mayor John Correll and Mendon Supervisor John Moffitt. Steve Moore, another high school friend, was there and able to bask in the glow of everyone’s admiration of the awesome stage he had built as the centerpiece to the entire extravaganza. And the musical act for the Lima opener, featuring a performance by our friend Steve Grills, couldn’t have been any more appropriate. Steve grew up on West Main Street just a few hundred feet down the road.

Next we’ll tell you what to expect if we’ve talked you into making your own pilgrimage to Lima in the future, and we’ll close by sharing the rest of the month’s schedule.

There is one particular aspect of the commercial layout of Lima that is critical to the logistics of this whole concept. Fanatics Pub is located in the parking lot of what used to be Lima’s grocery store. So Jim Shelly has a large vacant parking lot at his disposal, and the vehicles are arranged in an every-other-spot format with each vehicle having the empty spot on the driver’s side as an area to set up lawn chairs.

The parking lot opens 45 minutes before show time and upon entry, patrons receive a menu and are directed to a parking spot. Pick-up trucks may be parked backwards if desired. Vehicles too large to fit into a parking space, like RV’s and campers, are not allowed. All food and beverage orders are taken over the phone, paid by credit card, and food is delivered to parking spaces by Fanatics staff wearing masks and gloves.

While at Fanatics to cover this concert, Jim showed us the upstairs of his Fanatics building which he has turned into the coolest second floor in Lima. That’s because he has renovated it into a private mini-hotel, with second floor accommodations for the artists he books to play at Fanatics. For the sake of this article, it also afforded the opportunity for Deb to climb through a second floor window and scooch on her butt under the electric wires to the edge of the roof to get the aerial photo seen here.

This is one of Jim’s strokes of genius in terms of booking national artists that no small bar in our area should be able to book. Rather than have to pay for artists’ accommodations as part of the concert booking, he can offer complete accommodations, right at Fanatics, as part of the package.

As we toured the second floor, it was clear that the space was expertly arranged. In a relatively small space he has a four bedroom suite and a bathroom with a shower. As you analyze the finances of any band going on the road, their expenses would have to include the cost of hotels, which in turn would have to be factored into the fee paid to the artists.

In the mutually symbiotic scenario now in place at Fanatics, Jim is able to barter free accommodations for a lower concert fee for the artist. If they play Fanatics in Lima they can perform their show, hang out at the bar afterward, and then just amble up the stairs and crawl into their own private bedroom. Each of which has its own big screen TV.

So to summarize the Fanatics Drive-In Concert Series, the summer of 2020 is off to a roaring start. The Steve Grills concert was a sellout which, for the record, constitutes almost 40 vehicles.

Here is the schedule for the rest of June: Sat. June 13 ~ Popa Chubby ($100 per car), Tues. June 16 ~ Paul Nelson ($75 per car), Sat. June 20 ~ Johnny Rawls ($75 per car), Tues. June 23 ~ Hanna and the Blue Hearts ($50 per car), Sat. June 27 ~ Gary Hoey ($75 per car), Tues. June 30 ~ Gabe Stillman ($50 per car).

Throughout the rest of June, the drive-in concert series will also feature free music on Sundays from 1:00-3:00 with an outdoor grill serving food. More information is available at the Fanatics website and tickets are available, pre-purchased via credit card, by calling Jim Shelly at 315-573-2411.

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