Florida and San Francisco Loosen Restrictions on Live Music

Florida’s governor says all businesses can reopen at full capacity, while San Francisco is taking a more cautious approach.

On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a sweeping executive order that lifts all restrictions on bars, nightclubs and other businesses that were implemented due to the spread of the coronavirus. He stated at a press conference, “We’re not closing anything going forward.”

DeSantis’s order also suspends all fines incurred for not wearing a mask and requires local governments to justify any localized restrictions that bring capacity below 100%.

The news comes as Florida approaches 700,000 contracted cases of COVID-19 and reports more than 14,000 deaths, according to the state’s health department. In the last full week of testing, the state averaged more than 2,000 new cases per day and has seen more than 8,000 non-residents test positive while in the state.

Music venues and nightclubs across the state will be allowed to open at full capacity, something American Nightlife Association president JC Diaz says owners are feeling both excited and concerned about. 

“It’s a little bit of a balance if you will, from the health and economic standpoint,” Diaz tells Billboard. Nightlife is “a huge economic driver and obviously you can get people back to work. But also the mitigation measures are extremely important in order for us to not have a huge spike whether it be locally or having an influence on an international level.”

While the state will not allow for the enforcement of reduced capacities, Diaz believes venue owners will not be filling their rooms to the maximum capacity. He explains that most patrons are interested in mitigation measures and will be more comfortable in establishments that follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Health and Human Services protocols. 

“I understand what DeSantis is trying to do. He is trying to make sure that we can generate the billions of dollars that the industry provides and the jobs of course,” says Diaz. But he cautions, “If we open up prematurely without mitigation measures, as we have seen it in other markets, it’s great for the first couple of weeks, but then the industry is [in] complete shut down again.”

On the same day in San Francisco, Mayor London Breed announced the Jam permit, which would allow local businesses to apply for the ability to play amplified music and have live performances in outdoor spaces. The permit, created and administered by San Francisco’s Entertainment Commission, gives businesses the opportunity to apply at least two weeks in advance to hold outdoor entertainment on private patios and rooftops, in parking lots and throughout the city’s roughly 1,600 shared spaces (city sidewalk, curb lane, street or other outdoor location).

“It’s a first step. It’s not going to give everything to everyone in our community right now. It’s a limited permit because of the health restrictions, but it has the ability to adapt as rules change,” says San Francisco Entertainment Commission executive director Maggie Weiland.

The permit will allow for venues with parking lots or shared spaces to open for live events as long as there is dining and patrons are seated six feet apart and follow the county’s outdoor dining regulations. Amplified noise will only be allowed for 6 hours per day between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. and be subject to sound limits.

Performers are only allowed to “jam,” as state restrictions prohibit singing, shouting, or playing wind or brass instruments — activities shown to increase the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19. All performers and staff are required to use face coverings and each performer must fit in the performance area and keep a distance of at least six feet from other people.

“I’ve received a lot of great feedback from our music community. For actual venue owners, this is a game changer,” says Weiland. “All of those independent venues in the city that had been closed, they could take advantage, but it’s just trying to figure out if this is financially feasible based on having to do outdoor dining.”

Weiland says the Entertainment Commission has already received 25 applications since Friday and is hoping for more as regulations change and businesses figure out spaces and ways to bring live music back to the city. 

“That’s why this permit is so important in a lot of ways, because it brings the conversation back to the table,” says Weiland. “It shows our community that entertainment, music, artists, culture are incredibly important.”

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