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Major Portland music venues adopt vaccine requirements

The State Theatre and Thompson’s Point in Portland will require vaccination proof or a negative test starting this weekend, while the Portland House of Music will do the same starting Aug. 26.

Three major Portland music venues announced Wednesday that they will require audience members to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19, or a negative test result, to get into upcoming concerts.

The promoters of concerts at the State Theatre and Thompson’s Point, where two sold-out shows are scheduled for this weekend, announced Wednesday that both venues will immediately require proof of vaccination or a recent negative test, according to the State Theatre’s website. The Portland House of Music’s measure starts Aug. 26, according to a news release from owner Ken Bell.

Nonprofit performing arts presenter Portland Ovations also announced Wednesday that it would require vaccinations as well as masks at its indoor events, most of which are scheduled for the fall at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.

At least two other Maine music venues already require proof of vaccination to attend concerts – The Opera House at Boothbay Harbor and Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield – and several others are considering it.

Maine music promoters and venues that work with national concert promotions company Live Nation said Monday that they would work to enact vaccine policies by Oct. 4, the start date Live Nation has set for all shows with which it is involved. Maine venues and promoters that work with Live Nation include Waterfront Concerts, which books shows at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor and the Cross Insurance Arena and Merrill Auditorium in Portland, among others.

The State Theatre’s announcement Wednesday said that all patrons and staff attending concerts at the State Theatre and all State Theatre Presents concerts outdoors at Thompson’s Point will need to show proof of full vaccination or a negative test from the past 48 hours, along with a matching ID. Children under 12 are exempt from the policy.

The announcement from the State Theatre did not include information about refunds for ticket holders who do not want to adhere to the new vaccine policy, but the State Theatre’s refund policy on its website states that COVID-19 could force the venue’s events and policies to change suddenly, and that ticket holders will have to accept those.

“In an effort to enable a safer live experience for all, we’re also facilitating some new safety initiatives, which you will need to accept and adopt in order to attend any event,” the refund policy states.

The State Theatre only recently began presenting concerts again, the first major national concert this year being Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats on July 30. The sold-out shows scheduled for this weekend are Brandi Carlile on Friday and Lake Street Dive on Saturday.

“For the past 17 months, the State Theatre has been shuttered due to the effects of the pandemic. This decision was made to help keep our community safe and our doors open. We look forward to seeing you soon, and as always, thank you for supporting live music,” the announcement read.

Thompson’s Point is privately owned so only concerts presented by the State Theatre at Thompson’s Point will have the proof of vaccination policy. About an hour after the announcement on the State Theatre Facebook page Wednesday, most of the dozens of comments left were positive. Some thanked the State Theatre for helping them feel safe at upcoming shows they wanted to see. Others told them not to worry about criticism from some because the policy was the right thing to do. One commenter said she was just about to give away her tickets to the Brandi Carlile show, but now feels that she doesn’t have to.

FEELING SAFER

Trevor Geiger of Falmouth said Wednesday that the new policy makes him feel safer about the Wilco concert at Thompson’s Point on Aug. 25, which he is planning to attend. He said he had been a little worried about going, since his father is undergoing cancer treatments and has a compromised immune system. He said the new policy has prompted his wife to consider joining him at the Wilco show, which she didn’t previously feel was safe enough to attend.

“Even with it being an outdoor show I was a little concerned about the Wilco show. So I’m very happy with what they’re doing,” said Geiger, 39. He said now that vaccine policies are in place at State Theatre and Portland House of Music, he’s considering seeing shows at those venues as well. “I haven’t yet been willing to see a sold-out indoor show. But now I might be.”

In announcing the new policy at the indoor Portland House of Music, Bell also cited having been closed for 17 months before reopening this summer. The policy requires people to show proof of vaccination or be tested within the previous 72 hours. He wrote in his announcement that the venue was “giving everyone more than a week to find their vaccination card, get vaccinated, get tested” or email the venue at booking@portlandhouseofmusic.com for a refund.

Portland House of Music is currently hosting about five shows a week and Bell said he knows a “sudden switch” in policy will be difficult for customers. But he feels the new policy is important to keeping his business going. “As live events continue to evolve and adapt due to COVID, we must follow along with protocols that are sweeping our industry in the hopes that we are able to keep our doors open and we are able to continue to provide you with outstanding local, regional and national talent,” Bell wrote in his announcement. The first Portland House of Music show scheduled to take place on Aug. 26under the new policy includes the acts Keep Flying, Dancer, Savor and Arcuates. Portland Ovations said it will require all attendees, staff and performers at its indoor events to be fully vaccinated and wear masks, so children under 12 will not be permitted, but tickets can be exchanged for its other events. Next on its schedule is the 2021-22 Season Preview on Sept. 9 at Merrill Auditorium, with the season starting in earnest in late October.

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