Whoa Nelly! Let’s just clarify those venue capacity restrictions, shall we?

With Allan Sko

OK, OK… So in the excitement of the initial announcement of the increased capacity yesterday, it seems clarification is needed.

The 100% capacity is for places with fixed, tiered seating only.

‘Huh, well that sucks,’ you may cry. ‘Why not everywhere?’

That’s the discussion that erupted on the social shortly after, largely championed by friend-of-the-music-industry Kels Bagust.

Tara Cheyne MLA, who is the Minister For Arts among other responsibilities, was quick to provide clarification:

“Live music venues can apply for exemptions – just like The Basement has, and been granted, for Saturday night (capacity increase from 195 to 350) – and we are working with them on that,” she kindly wrote on the BMA Facebook page.

“Exemption applications are required because the CHO’s [Chief Health Officer’s] office needs to be satisfied about the safety of events. The CHO has been consistent in her advice that there are situations which increase COVID risks – being inside, close movement/interactions between strangers, alcohol. Any of these on their own increases the risk, let alone combined together – and that’s why different things have opened up/increased/changed at different times (eg outdoor seated events increasing capacities first).

“That said, if events are generally going to be similar in how they look/run/are managed, or the same event is held regularly, I would hope the CHO’s team would be very open to granting ongoing exemptions to those.

“I want this to be as easy and as straightforward as possible for venues while meeting the CHO’s requirements and we’ll work with venues on guiding them through the process.

“I know it’s not 100% and there’s still frustration, but please know we have been working really hard to get to even this point – and we’ll continue to work hard on it.

“Regarding capacity generally, I strongly recommend venues get in touch with Access Canberra or ACT Health to determine if capacities are being calculated correctly – we are finding that venues are undercalculating.”

She closes by stating: “…I know how much work has gone into that from every venue’s perspective. I appreciate it more than I can say.”

And as BMA’s own Locality Column champion Ruth O’Brien noted:

“Additionally, to help support Canberra’s live music sector, the COVID Safe Event Protocol will be updated to provide advice to live music performance venues on how to safely host live music events, and to seek an exemption for larger audiences.”

Again, all info can be found here.

So, in conclusion:

  • Profuse apologies if I falsely got people’s hopes up
  • Thank you to Kels Bagust and Tara Cheyne for their illuminating and clarifying discussion which I reproduced here
  • Be sure to buy those extra tickets to fixed, tiered seating venues like Canberra Theatre, The Street Theatre et al, as well as to venues like The Basement who have applied for exemptions
  • If you are a venue and haven’t already, be sure to contact Access Canberra or ACT Health regarding exemptions. Music ACT have also offered their support in this regard
  • Stay tuned for further updates as they come in

Thanks one and all. Look after each other, and stay safe.

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