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Live Event Sector expresses concern over lack of reopening plans

Published: April 5, 2021

OREGON – On March 31, 2021, representatives from Oregon’s live event sector attended a webinar with Governor Brown’s liaison Leah Horner and Dr. Dean Sidelinger from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) in hopes of providing input and helping to craft recommendations for a safe and equitable reopening of performance venues around the state as more people become vaccinated and COVID-19 infection rates begin to decline. Although originally led to believe the group would be invited to provide input into the reopening process, members were instead limited to submitting questions at the end of the OHA presentation — questions which were largely left unanswered. Additionally, the Governor’s team did not provide guidance to allow reopening of venues and events once specific benchmarks are met.

Oregon’s performance venues and live events were some of the first businesses to shut down and will be the last to be able to reopen. The coalition has been working diligently to plan a path forward that allows venues to open safely for their patrons and staff, with regulations that are in line with restrictions placed on other gathering spaces such as churches, restaurants, and bars.

Members of the group signed a letter to the Governor advocating for a sensible strategy for reopening prior to the March 31 meeting. The Governor’s team has not responded to this letter, nor was it addressed in the March 31 meeting.  Questions submitted by attendees of the meeting addressed the development of benchmarks that can be used to design a path to reopening. Meeting participants were told that there was no strategy, and that the Governor would not be pursuing any input from the industry.

Representatives of the group also asked for an explanation of discrepancies between current guidelines for various types of venues. In the “Lower Risk” category currently listed in the Governor’s guidelines, which is the only category in which most venues can afford to open, Faith Institutions (churches, synagogues, etc.) are allowed to hold indoor gatherings at 75% capacity, while Outdoor Entertainment Establishments are limited to 50% capacity. The Live Event Sector group recommends the implementation of benchmark metrics using the same guiding principles as other establishments, including faith institutions, bars, and restaurants.  Existing policy inequities will hamper progress toward the full reopening of the economy and are unfair to the entertainment businesses and non-profits who have been impacted by restrictions longer and harder than most other industries. 

The live performance industry faces many reopening challenges that other businesses do not. First and foremost is the amount of time necessary to schedule, plan, and present performances. Venues require this lead time based on consistent benchmarks and regulations before they can offer live performances to awaiting audiences. Without them, venues cannot dependably schedule events, sell tickets, and hire staff. Many touring artists have already canceled their tours in Oregon due to this uncertainty. At this point, a single performance cancellation can potentially lead to financial collapse for many of our time-honored venues.

Venues and events are crucial to Oregon’s economic recovery. Studies have shown that for every dollar spent on a ticket, twelve more dollars are spent directly in the local economy. Many other businesses benefit when people stop, see a show, have dinner, get a hotel, or plan a return trip to a festival. Furthermore, Oregon’s event spaces act as a voice for who we are; our story is told on the stages, arenas, and theaters of the state. The decisions made today can bring Oregon back to a position of strength and sustainability for jobs, tourism, and its tax base. Alternatively, poor decisions will result in unmitigable damage to an industry that is already poised on the edge of economic collapse.

Participating Venues and Events include:

P5 Portland 5
Music Portland
Pendleton Roundup
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Waterfront Blues Festival
Britt Music and Arts Festival
String Summit
Monqui Presents
Wonder Ballroom
Doug Fir
Portland Center Stage
Hult Center for the Performing Arts
Les Schwab Amphitheater
Cuthbert Amphitheater
McDonald Theatre
Revolution Hall
Mississippi Studios
Oregon Symphony
Sisters Folk Festival
Portland Opera
Oregon Ballet
Sionna Productions LLC
The Old Church Concert Hall
Portland Expo Center

About Britt Music & Arts Festival

Inspired by its intimate and scenic hillside venue, Britt Music & Arts Festival provides diverse live performances, an incomparable classical festival and dynamic education programs that create a sense of discovery and community. Since its grassroots beginnings in 1963, the non-profit organization has grown from a two-week chamber music festival into a summer-long series of concerts in a variety of genres, including a three-week orchestra season, and year-round education and engagement programs. For more information, visit