New guidance released for safe reopening of Austin’s music venues


AUSTIN (KXAN) — There’s no way to tell right now when live music venues will be allowed to reopen, but a campaign called Reopen Every Venue Safely or REVS is getting a head start on planning.

Friday, REVS, a national campaign of Music Cities Together, released a best practices guide in partnership with the City of Austin.

According to the city’s news release, the guide “was developed by local industry representatives with input from local leaders about steps the Austin music venue community should consider taking during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Now that there’s some time, and while this is a really scary time, and a really sort of threatening time to our industry, it’s important to be able to respond as quickly as possible,” said Bobby Garza who’s leading the local REVS efforts in Austin.

Garza and city officials emphasize:

“This guide is not advocating reopening venues at this time. Instead, this living document is the first step in a longer process and is intended to give venue owners and operators time to digest the information, make informed decisions, and enter into a dialogue with artists, staff, guests and the City before safe reopening occurs.”

The guide outlines various safety protocols venue owners could implement for artists, venue staff and guests. For each group, the guide suggests low and high-cost options.

“The cost considerations are incredibly important right now,” Garza said.

Some examples of low-cost safety precautions for artists include:

  • Establishing minimum safety procedures band members and crew must adhere to
  • Clearly describing your venue plans and specific public health requirements to artists, booking staff, promoters, agents and managers in show offers, contracts and all lead-up communication
  • Creating “know before you go” one-pager/communication, including all safety and mandatory policies

For guests, higher-cost steps venues could take could be:

  • Ensuring proper plexiglass protections are in place for entry and ID’s are checked without handling
  • Ensuring there is a notification system that notifies guests if someone at a given show has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Utilizing technology to establish a staggered entry time for patrons

Erica Shamaly, Music and Entertainment Division Manager with the City of Austin’s Economic Development Department said, “These are additional costs on top of less revenue coming in, so we understand that that is a need, and we are certainly talking about it and trying to prepare.”

Garza said the guide can help venue owners make business decisions that make sense for them.

“If you’re a venue owner, and you know that social distancing is more important on the one hand, than maybe surfaces are, or you can provide better safety as a result of how your venue is laid out by maximizing social distancing, rather than investing in touch-less faucets and toilets, that’s going to be something you’re going to need to know,” he explained.

Garza added, “The best operators are the ones that make sure that they are prepared for multiple contingencies.”

According to REVS, the guide can constantly be updated to include any lessons learned.

Shamaly said, “It’s data. Europe is a little bit ahead of us, and so there’s a lot we can learn about venues opening there to see what’s working and what isn’t.”

City officials said Austin is working on a separate “Event Reopening Guidelines for the broader event and venue industry in partnership with Austin Public Health, Austin Convention Center, Austin Center for Events and others.”

As venues remain closed for now, the city has relief funding opportunities, including the new Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund Reopening.

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