When live music returns to Alberta, it’s more and more likely you’ll need to prove you’re vaccinated in order to see a show.
Edmonton’s Starlite Room has announced when it re-opens on Sep. 3, all guests will need to either prove they have been vaccinated or show evidence of a recent negative COVID-19 test.
“I’m not happy about doing this,” said Starlite Room co-owner Tyson Boyd.
“However, I do see this as our only solution.
“We’ve given it a lot of thought and every answer we come to is, this is the safest way that we can open up.”
Rising COVID-19 case counts and the Delta variant have tempered Boyd’s re-opening enthusiasm, but staying closed is no option: restrictions crippled live music venues and the concert business is difficult to change.
“There’s no chance of socially distancing properly. We have to make our audience feel as comfortable as possible returning. We also have to make our touring artists feel comfortable coming back to Alberta,” Boyd said.
Required vaccinations, he says, is the only way to do that.
The Starlite Room would be one of the first venues in Edmonton to require such proof but Boyd says he’s not a trailblazer.
“We’re just following along with the rest of the touring industry in North America. That seems to be where everything is going right now.”
“From what I’m seeing now, I believe it’s inevitable.”
Music industry giants AEG and Live Nation have both recently announced anybody going to any of their concerts will have to either show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test.
“Live Nation and the live music industry are about uniting people, and vaccines are one of the greatest tools for making sure that everyone can continue to enjoy live music together,” said Wayne Zronik, president of business operations for Live Nation Canada.
“We’re confident this is the right move for everyone coming out to shows, including artists, fans crew and our staff.”
Requiring proof of vaccination has been a touchy political issue. Those who oppose the move say the requirements violate their rights.
The Alberta government has said it opposes any requirement to prove one’s vaccination status and the province does not have any plans for a vaccine certificate of passport.
The issue has proven divisive amongst Albertans and despite Boyd’s prediction that vaccination requirements are inevitable, there’s no clear vaccine consensus within the music industry yet, either.
Kaley Beisegel is with the Alberta music industry advocacy group, West Anthem. The group tries to support the industry, which has been crippled by a year and a half of COVID restrictions.
Beisegel says some members feel requiring vaccinations is the best way to keep guests and artists comfortable. However, others don’t necessarily agree. It’s a hard decision for struggling and anxious venues.
“I think it’s a really difficult question,” Beisegel said.
“There’s a moral question around it, too. Folks are struggling with, ‘What can I do? What should I do or what’s safe to do?’ It’s a really difficult decision.”
Few owners want to alienate any customers right now. Boyd says the majority of people he’s heard from support The Starlite Room’s decision. He says about fiver per cent of the social media posts are upset with the move.
Aurora Blaskovits is one of the music fans Boyd is hoping to attract back. She used to go to a couple shows a year but isn’t in a hurry to go back.
Blaskovits said she supports a person’s choice to get vaccinated and a businesses’ choice to require patrons to be vaccinated. For her, she’s prepared for any requirement — in fact, she expects them.
“It’s kind of inevitable,” she says.
“I mean that’s why I got [the vaccine] so I can say, ‘Yeah, I can go and see these things.'”