Concertgoers will have to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results to get into a show at First Avenue or any of its sister venues.
The Twin Cities' leading independent concert promoter announced the new policy Monday — effective immediately — following a steady wave of reports on rising COVID-19 cases around the country attributable to the delta variant, including news from New Orleans of two famous venues shutting down after workers there tested positive for the virus.
"Taking this step ensures the safety of our guests, staff, and the artists, and implementing this simple measure minimizes the risk and the spread of the virus," First Ave's announcement reads.
"[Our] previous policy included mandatory vaccinations for staff, and this is an extension of those precautions."
Patrons will have to show either proof of a full series of vaccination, completed at least 14 days prior, or proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the event.
Children younger than 12 who cannot be vaccinated still can attend concerts with a parent but will have to show negative test results. Anyone not vaccinated will be "encouraged" to wear a mask even with a negative test.
Refunds will be available to patrons who cannot, or will not, meet these requirements via the company's new ticketing partner, AXS.com. These rules apply at the club's main room, 7th St. Entry, Turf Club, Fine Line and the Palace and Fitzgerald theaters and will be in place "for the foreseeable future," the announcement noted.
With 400-some concerts on the calendar stretching well into next year — including more than a dozen in the next week — First Ave's staff faces a daunting task in enforcing these untested policies. But evidence is rising that crowded music venues are again at risk of being hot spots for the new virus variant.
In Louisiana, where vaccine rates are among the lowest in the country and infection rates are rapidly rising, several New Orleans music venues announced last week they would implement the same policies First Ave has announced. But it was too late for two of them: The Maple Leaf Bar and Snug Harbor said Monday they were closed until further notice due to infections among the staff.
Venues in highly populated areas of California, New York and Boston also implemented proof-of-vaccine policies in recent days.
In Minnesota, vaccine rates are the highest in the nation, but new infections still are on the rise.
One Minneapolis DJ, Shannon Blowtorch, took the initiative last weekend and announced a mask requirement for her dance party outside the Hook & Ladder Theatre in south Minneapolis.
"Everyone was pretty respectful of it," Blowtorch said afterward. Even though she allowed refunds, no one asked for one. "I refuse to put money over the health of others," she said.
"It would be great to see First Ave also enforce a mask policy," the DJ added.
Within hours of First Avenue's announcement, the Hook & Ladder's staff announced it will follow the same policies requiring proof of vaccine or negative tests for shows inside the venue. Most of the Hook's events are currently outdoors, though. For those, the nonprofit venue is requiring all its staff and volunteers to wear masks while encouraging patrons to do the same.
Many of the Twin Cities' most active venues at the moment are operating with outdoor, distanced set-ups planned before Minnesota rolled back COVID safety guidelines, including the Hook & Ladder, Icehouse, Crooners and Palmer's. Others are not yet fully up and running, among them the Dakota, Cedar Cultural Center and Amsterdam Bar & Hall.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658