Some Greater Cincinnati music venues cracking down with COVID-19 rules

Policies moving to mandatory vaccination/negative COVID test for fans planning to attend shows.

With the delta variant surging and COVID-19 cases piling up again, some, but not all, local music venues are re-imposing pandemic-related restrictions. The Heritage Bank Center is only requiring proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test in the previous 48 hours if the artist requests it.

MEMI, which oversees Riverbend, PNC Pavilion, the Icon Music Center, and the Taft Theatre, will require vaccination cards or a negative COVID test starting Oct. 4. For the time being, like Heritage, it’s at the individual artist’s discretion whether to require them. Why not implement the policy now?

“We wanted to give people time to reconsider, get vaccinated, plan accordingly, make appointments in advance,” said Rosemarie Moehring, Director of Marketing for MEMI. “As of right now, Dead and Company, Dave Matthews, and the Jonas Brothers have asked for it. As bands let us know, we’ve been notifying fans of the changes.”

Justin Jordan, co-owner of Riverfront Live, implemented their mandatory vaccination/negative COVID test policy Monday.

“We’ve been discussing it for a month now,” he said. “Bands have been asking for it. We announced it to buyers 11 days before it went into effect. That was plenty of time to make an appointment or get a refund. We thought it was best to start the policy and stick to it, the best thing to keep people safe and stay open.”

MEMI and Riverfront Live acted proactively, as opposed to a government mandate.

“We don’t want to get shut down again,” Moehring said. “We went 18 months without a concert, with thousands of people out of work, and we want to keep people safe.”

Both Moehring and Jordan said fan response has been more positive than negative.

“The really vocal and vulgar people have been in the minority,” Jordan said. “When they spoke up, more people responded to them, defending the policy.”

One local venue that is not imposing restrictions again is RiversEdge in Hamilton.

“I haven’t received any direction from the health director (to impose restrictions again),” said Adam Helms, Director of Resident Services for Hamilton who organizes RiversEdge shows. “We’re a little bit different. We’re a little more spaced out. People aren’t usually standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Even when we’re crowded, people can go to Marcum Park and hear the music, at least. The shows are free so they aren’t out anything. We have only paid show left and they aren’t asking for it.”

Neither Moehring nor Jordan are anticipating confrontations between ticketholders and event staff, though both will be adding employees to check vaccination cards and keep the lines moving.

“I’m not afraid of protesters, and we’re not the only ones doing this,” Jordan said. “I think it will be an industry standard before long. We routinely pay police to patrol anyway, so if someone wants to come ruin their night, go ahead.”

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