When the NorVa welcomes back concertgoers later this month, the venue will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.
AEG Presents, which operates the venue, announced a vaccine mandate on Thursday for all of its concert halls and festivals.
The announcement comes as live entertainment venues across the country are implementing their own vaccine requirements—and Hampton Roads promoters and venue operators say they are considering whether to follow suit.
Josh Coplon, owner of music and event production company LAVA Presents, said it’s a situation he’s monitoring closely for upcoming shows. While LAVA hasn’t made an announcement about vaccine requirements yet, Coplon said one will be forthcoming before LAVA’s next indoor show on Sept. 3.
“We are taking each show individually and monitoring what is going on,” he said, noting a recent indoor show at Old Dominion University required masks.
It’s also a matter of logistics. Enforcing a vaccine mandate or requiring negative covid tests for entry would likely require more staff in order to check vaccine cards and IDs, Coplon said. He’s still considering options to determine the most efficient way that could be carried out.
“Knowing how fluid everything is, I have a little bit of time to see what is going on before I have to make a decision,” Coplon said. “I’m happy to do whatever is necessary to be safe. It’s part of life right now.”
The NorVa was prepared to reopen its doors for the first time since last year for a Limp Bizkit concert on Monday. That show was cancelled after the band pulled the plug on its tour citing coronavirus concerns. Pop-punk band All Time Low will instead reopen the NorVa on Aug. 24.
For that NorVa show and all others held before Oct. 1, attendees will be required to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours, according to AEG’s policy. After Oct. 1, NorVa concert attendees will be required to be vaccinated.
“The date was chosen specifically to allow time for any eligible unvaccinated ticketholders and staff to reach fully vaccinated status should they choose to do so,” AEG said in a statement.
Other venues are holding off on mandates—for now.
Seven Venues, which operates cultural arts and entertainment venues in Norfolk including the Scope Arena and Chrysler Hall, does not have a vaccine mandate in place at this time.
“Right now, we don’t contemplate one,” said Seven Venues Director John Rhamstine. “That’s not to say it won’t change in the future.”
Festevents, the organizer of outdoor festivals at Town Point Park and Ocean View Beach Park, does not require masks or vaccines for admission to upcoming open-air events, said Marketing Director Jordan Lett.
“Should an artist require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test as a condition for admission in the future, we will fulfill that requirement,” Lett said in a written statement provided in response to questions. “However, at this time none of the artists booked to perform at our venues in 2021 have requirements for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test as a condition for admission.”
Across the country, a myriad of health regulations have forced mandates in some cities while others have left the choice up to individual venues.
New York City will begin requiring concert and theater goers to be at least partially vaccinated next month. New Orleans followed suit Thursday, announcing a vaccine or negative test mandate for all bars, clubs, and indoor live event venues that will take effect Aug. 24. Meanwhile, dozens of entertainment venues in Washington, D.C.—including the Anthem, 9:30 Club, and Kennedy Center—have announced their own vaccination requirements. Live Nation, the largest entertainment company in the world, said it would let performing artists decide whether attendees must be vaccinated for shows at its venues.
With the continued spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant, Rhamstine said he could see vaccine mandates becoming more prevalent in the live entertainment industry. Creative industries took one of the biggest economic hits from the coronavirus pandemic. The Brookings Institution estimated nearly one-third of creative industry jobs (about 3 million jobs) were lost during the pandemic.
To ensure their health and their livelihoods, performers want to protect themselves, their crews, and their audiences, Rhamstine said.
“Making sure we have a safe environment to work in and for patrons coming to events is critical,” he said.
But the downside of vaccine mandates is they would halve potential audiences in some parts of the country, he said.
“That would make it that much more difficult to sell tickets and get people to come to shows simply because the number of people that are vaccinated right now is surprisingly low,” Rhamstine said.
About 50% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Andrea Noble is an award-winning journalist who recently relocated from Washington, D.C. to Ghent in Norfolk. Her reporting has taken her everywhere from crime scenes and illegal nightclubs to the U.S.-Mexico border and the halls of Congress. She loves tiki drinks and gypsy punk, and hopes to check Eurovision and scuba diving with sharks off her bucket list.