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Arizona independent music venues to require COVID-19 vaccine or negative test to attend concerts

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Posted at 11:46 AM, Aug 16, 2021

PHOENIX — More than a dozen independent concerts, clubs, and entertainment venues in Flagstaff, Phoenix, and Tucson have collectively agreed to require its attendees to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or have a confirmed negative COVID-19 test by Sep. 20.

That includes Celebrity Theatre, Crescent Ballroom, Marquee Theatre, The Nash, The Nile Theatre, The Rebel Lounge, The Rhythm Room, Valley Bar, Walter Where? House, and Westside Blues & Jazz in Phoenix, and 191 Toole, Club Congress, Fox Tucson Theatre, and The Rialto Theatre in Tucson.

The Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff confirmed that it, too, has joined the coalition.

Luckyman Concerts, which promotes concerts and shows at several venues in Arizona, announced the news on its Facebook page last month followed by several other venues.

The Arizona Republic was the first to report the developments.

"We are taking this necessary step for Arizona's music fans to ensure that all concerts this fall can happen as scheduled. We have a responsibility to our community and there are expectations for all who want to participate in activities in which they share an environment with other people," the announcement said. "We are currently working through the logistics of the verification process and will share those details in the coming days on our individual venue websites and social media pages."

"The last few weeks, every conversation has been around COVID, and policy; every artist is asking about it, managers and artists are really concerned about their artists going on tour this fall and what people are doing. And so, it just became more and more apparent that we needed, you know, the whole industry needs to address this," said Stephen Chilton, owner of The Rebel Lounge, during an interview with ABC15 last month.

He said even though Sept. 20 is the overall date announced, some venues may begin sooner. But, he said it is important that people who've bought tickets to upcoming shows have enough time to get vaccinated or get a negative test.

The Republic reported that Charlie Levy, who owns Crescent Ballroom, had a recent conversation with Live Nation and then came up with some drafted guidelines and began to circulate those around to other owners and venues around town. Soon, nearly a dozen others joined.

Michelle Donovan, who owns The Nile Theatre in downtown Mesa, said she was contacted by the owners at The Marquee in Phoenix.

"This is something that we knew we would need to be in place to protect our patrons, bands, and staff," she said in an emailed statement, also noting that all of her staff has received the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We all had to shut down once (for a year and a half)" she wrote. "This is the only solution to stop independent venues from closing again. We want to remain open, but we want to do it safely."

Joel Goldenthal, executive director of The Nash, confirmed in a text message to ABC15 that his venue was also part of the collective.

Recently, Live Nation and AEG both updated their policies to require everyone -- artists, staff, and audiences -- to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have a negative COVID-19 test at all of its venues and festivals.

Live Nation's requirements begin Oct. 4, 2021. AEG's policy begins Oct. 1, 2021, according to an online news release.

“Vaccines are going to be your ticket back to shows, and as of October 4th we will be following the model we developed for Lollapalooza and requiring this for artists, fans and employees at Live Nation venues and festivals everywhere possible in the US, said Michael Rapino, president and CEO, Live Nation Entertainment, in a statement.

“Just a few weeks ago, we were optimistic about where our business, and country, were heading. The Delta variant, combined with vaccine hesitancy, is pushing us in the wrong direction again," said Jay Marciano, COO of AEG and Chairman and CEO, AEG Presents, in a statement.

"We realize that some people might look at this as a dramatic step, but it’s the right one. We also are aware that there might be some initial pushback, but I’m confident and hopeful that, at the end of the day, we will be on the right side of history and doing what’s best for artists, fans, and live event workers."

Due to increasing concerns about the delta variant, Arizona's three universities -- ASU, NAU, and UArizona -- all updated their masks policies, again requiring them for students and staff in some areas. Several school districts are also requiring students and staff to wear masks on campus, even as Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey insists mask mandates are against state law.

Private businesses, however, can make their own rules.

At least two restaurants and a bar -- Oven+Vine, FnB, and MercBar -- in the Phoenix metro have recently begun requiring customers to prove their vaccination status in order to dine indoors.