On February 25, Colorado officials signaled to music-industry leaders that COVID-19 capacity restrictions for live events could be loosening relatively soon, says Levitt Pavilion head Chris Zacher, who has served as co-chair of the Colorado Independent Venue Association and the state's chapter of the National Independent Venue Association.
According to projections that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shared with Zacher and other industry leaders, by April 1, as most counties move to Level Blue on what would then be CDPHE's COVID Dial 3.0, live events could return at 50 percent capacity with six-foot social distancing; by May 1, they could return at 60 percent capacity with six-foot social distancing, and in July and beyond, at Level Green, they could return at 75 to 80 percent capacity with three-foot social distancing or even no social distancing, depending on how many people have been vaccinated by then.
"We shared projections with stakeholders recently, including the possibility of expanding event and restaurant capacity to 75-80 percent in July," a spokesperson for CDPHE tells Westword. "Please note that the projections we shared are not concrete and were presented to help the industry plan for the future. We regularly share best guesses for what we expect in the coming months, with a mutual understanding that specific parameters and timelines will change as the pandemic changes. But we have a strong commitment to help our businesses plan for the upcoming months, and so regularly share information."
Outdoor venues like Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Levitt Pavilion, as well as indoor spaces over 28,000 square feet in size, would benefit the most, says Zacher.
"Today CDPHE and the governor's office made positive strides to ensure the long-term health and viability of Colorado's arts and culture scene," Zacher says. "Our member venues have been shuttered since March of 2020 and/or have been operating at reduced capacity, which is not a viable pathway for solvency. We are confident that these changes are a step in the right direction to help us save our stages, jump-start our economy and get people back to work."
Zacher and his Levitt team are already in the process of booking their venue's 2021 calendar. Along with Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Levitt has applied for a variance from the state to allow for greater-capacity shows. At Level Yellow, where Denver is currently, capacity in restaurants that offer live music is limited to 50 percent or fifty people, whichever is lower; at Level Blue on the current CDPHE Dial 2.0 — which Jefferson County just attained — capacity is limited to 50 percent or 175 people, whichever is lower (and if socially distancing can still be maintained).
Through the pandemic, Zacher has loudly championed the live-music industry but also maintained a cautious position on reopening, encouraging the state to allow venues to host events only when it is safe.
But now, with more people being vaccinated and COVID-19 cases trending downward over the past several weeks (though that trend has flattened out in the past week), Zacher is optimistic that the day when large-scale shows return could be just around the corner.
CDPHE did offer a disclaimer when it spoke with the industry leaders: "If cases continue to decline, new capacity limits will be raised by 5-10 percent. If cases rise, capacity limits will either stay stable or become more restrictive."
This story has been updated to include a statement from the CDPHE.
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