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Loophole lets Live Nation demand vaccine or COVID-19 test before concerts

A DeSantis spokesperson acknowledged it doesn’t defy his executive order.
Attendees of Lollapalooza presented their vaccination cards for entry to the music Chicago music festival in July. Concert promoter Live Nation now says all of its concerts will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
Attendees of Lollapalooza presented their vaccination cards for entry to the music Chicago music festival in July. Concert promoter Live Nation now says all of its concerts will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
Published Aug. 20

Ticket holders for the Dead & Company show playing Oct. 7 at Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre will need more than see-through bags and low lawn chairs for the concert.

Last week, concert promoter Live Nation announced that anyone attending or working at its events will have to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test starting Oct. 4.

A legal expert and a spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis both said there are some loopholes that businesses can use without defying the governor’s executive order, which bans requiring customers to provide proof they’ve gotten a COVID-19 vaccine.

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Christina Pushaw, a DeSantis spokesperson, noted in an interview that under the law, a concert promoter is allowed to require a negative COVID-19 test for entry. Live Nation could therefore refuse someone entry on that basis — just not on the basis of their vaccination status, she said.

Dead & Company, the supergroup that includes John Mayer and surviving members of the Grateful Dead, coming to Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in October.
Dead & Company, the supergroup that includes John Mayer and surviving members of the Grateful Dead, coming to Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in October.

Attorney Robert Shimberg, who heads the COVID-19 rapid response team to advise clients at the law firm Hill Ward Henderson, said Live Nation seems to have found loopholes other businesses can consider for safety and still stay within the law.

“Obviously in Florida, the one thing the executive order doesn’t allow is demanding proof of a vaccine,” Shimberg said. “But there are many other things they can do, such as requiring masking, proof of a negative test or social distancing.”

On the MidFlorida Amphitheatre website, the listing for Dead & Company, the supergroup that includes John Mayer and surviving members of the Grateful Dead, says “proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required ... to gain entry to the GA (general admission) Pit. ... If a GA Pit ticket holder does not have documentation, they will be provided an alternate viewing location. There are no exceptions to this policy, unless otherwise prohibited by law.”

Shimberg said the “alternate viewing location” is the kind of accommodation that would not violate the governor’s order.

Other big events have opted for this choice, offering a negative test as path to a ticket instead of a vaccine. The requirement appears to have inspired some music fans to roll up their sleeves.

At a news conference in North Carolina on Wednesday, Jeannine Beson, the vice president of regional venue operations at Live Nation, said the new policy has worked well at other events.

“We’ve tried this model at a variety of events, including Lollapalooza, where we saw 90 percent of fans bring their proof of vaccination, and 12 percent of fans said it was a reason to get vaccinated,” Beson said.

The South Beach Food and Wine Festival in Miami Beach originally announced it would require proof of vaccine or evidence of a negative coronavirus test within three days before attending its April event. The festival walked back that language after the governor signed his order April 2. Organizers eliminated the need to show proof, and instead allowed attendees to fill out an online health screening.

Live Nation’s policy is similar to how Broadway is approaching the situation, requiring its audiences to show proof of a vaccine as the country grapples with the delta variant surge that has flooded hospitals with COVID-19 patients.

“Vaccines are going to be your ticket back to shows, and as of Oct. 4 we will be following the model we developed for Lollapalooza and requiring this for artists, fans and employees at Live Nation venues and festivals everywhere possible in the U.S.,” said Michael Rapino, president and CEO of Live Nation Entertainment, in a statement.

Times staff writer Kirby Wilson contributed to this report. Information from Tribune News Service was used in this report.