More bars and indoor live music venues are requiring vaccines for customers

Alex Crothers, left, and Alan Newman outside Higher Ground in South Burlington on Friday, May 8, 2020. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Vermont’s indoor bars and live music venues are starting to card for proof of vaccination against Covid-19 or a negative test before letting patrons through their doors.

The new restrictions come as the highly contagious Delta variant is causing a resurgence of cases throughout Vermont.

Some venues are accepting proof of a negative Covid-19 test as an alternative to proof of vaccination.

The Higher Ground ballroom reopened Tuesday night with a solo acoustic performance by the legendary singer and songwriter Richard Thompson. 

Everyone inside the South Burlington club, closed since March 2020, was expected to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or provide a negative test result.

“The safety of our patrons, staff, and artists is our top priority,” Marketing Director Amy Wild said in an email Tuesday.

Wild said all patrons attending indoor events will be required to show proof of vaccination against Covid-19 or a negative test from the past 72 hours, along with a matching photo ID. She said the venue will accept either a vaccination card or a photo of it. 

Wild added that the staff is vaccinated and artists are expected to follow the policy as well. 

Higher Ground, Vermont’s largest concert promoter, is following the lead of smaller venues.

Zen Barn, in Waterbury Center, requires proof of vaccination or a negative test result within 72 hours for entry

For others, a negative test result is not enough. They are accepting only proof of vaccination. 

Burlington’s Radio Bean announced on Facebook that vaccines would be required. Owner Lee Anderson said in a post Aug. 11 that the card or a photo of it would be accepted.

“With Delta on the rise in our community proof of vaccination will be required,” Anderson wrote in the post. 

The club started requiring proof of vaccination last weekend. 

“Yes, locally we’re crushing the vaccination numbers [and are] mostly ‘safe’, but we’re a small intimate club frequented by dancers, tourists and traveling artists and also a place where people are inevitably close together for extended periods of time,” Anderson continued. “Hopefully we can get over the hump within a few weeks, start trending downward and this requirement can be short lived.”  

Vermont Comedy Club, in Burlington, also requires proof of vaccination to see shows. 

The club goes one step further to assure a Covid-free show experience. It offers refunds to people who have bought tickets and are exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19. 

Students at the club’s classes must also be fully vaccinated, as are employees and performers.

When live Friday and Saturday night shows resume at Monkey House, the Winooski bar will require proof of vaccination for entry, said Matt Folts, an employee, when reached by phone. He added that they are not sure when live shows will resume at the bar. 

Until then, the staff is fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated patrons are asked to wear a mask.

The Burlington bar Three Needs may have led the way. It has been requiring proof of vaccination since Aug. 9.

“With the increase of the Delta variant I just said we need to stop this process,” owner Glenn Walter said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “We can stop the Delta variant.”

The bar reopened June 1, when its youngest staff member was fully vaccinated, Walter said.

“They’re all family,”  Walter said. “We’ve all been together for many years.”

“We thought we were all going to be good” once everyone on staff was vaccinated, Walter added,  “but then with this whole variant, we’re going to get shut down again.”

Walter realized he needed to do more to prevent another shutdown. He said he made the decision to require vaccines from patrons when he realized through conversations with friends and regulars that they already were vaccinated. 

The state’s largest live-music venue is choosing a different direction.

Champlain Valley Expo is not requiring vaccination. 

‘We’re going to closely monitor the situation,” said Marketing Director Jeff Bartley.

Bartley said the Essex Junction venue is recommending that visitors wear masks when indoors, following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based on the rate of community transmission.

Concerts at the Champlain Valley Fair opening Friday will be outdoors. Bartley said when they bring in a big touring act, there could be 7,700 people in the grandstand. This year, he said, the Fair is not bringing in any big acts. Instead, it is bringing in tribute bands and is not anticipating big crowds for the concerts. 

Bartley said the Expo was one of Vermont’s first sites for Covid testing and later became a vaccination site. He said they are proud of contributing to Vermont’s high vaccination rate.

Bartley said 120,000 people are expected through the Expo’s seven gates over the course of 10 days for the Fair.

“Ten best days of summer coming back,” Bartley said. 

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