EL PASO CO. — Before going to a local concert or show, get ready to show proof of your COVID-19 vaccine or a negative COVID test. Some local venues are now requiring this, including Lulu's Downstairs in Manitou Springs.
The live music venue implemented the new policy a few weeks ago, and it's something many music venues across the country are now doing to keep guests and members of the bands safe.
"It was kind of a no-brainer. We had to do something because our business is based on inner-state traveling, bands traveling. We're a big enough venue that we need people that are coming from all over the world basically," said Marc Benning, the owner of Lulu's Downstairs. "It just seemed like the best practice in order to operate live music again, from the band's perspective and for people traveling from state to state."
Benning, who has owned the venue since 2019, said as of a month ago, patrons must show proof of their COVID-19 vaccine by bringing in your vaccination card or showing a picture of it on your phone. If you don't have either, you must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours, before you can enter the venue.
Benning says the live music industry was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, which is why he made the tough decision to implement the new rules.
"We were probably the first to close and last to re-open as far as restrictions on COVID. We needed some sort of protocol that made sense to get our business back," said Benning. "A lot of people are grateful for it (the new policy). A smaller and louder group is not very happy with it, and I would say that's the group that's very loud."
The venue holds shows every weekend with up to 300 people in the crowds. Joseph Pope III attended a show over the weekend.
"I wondered right away if they were requiring a vaccination requirement, because I was really hoping they were," said Pope III. "I had my vaccine proof ready to go, and I will show that on any flight on any venue I need to go into."
Pope III said he had no problem abiding by the new rules, because it's something many live music venues are now doing across the country.
"I think that any industry that thrives on bringing as many as people into an enclosed space as possible, have a responsibility to protect the people they're inviting into their establishment," said Pope III. "If that requires vaccine requirements, negative testing or masks, then I think that's just what we have to do."
Meanwhile Benning says, while it was a tough decision to make, he wanted to ensure safety among customers and the bands.
"It's much easier to err on the side of caution. Why not? If I'm wrong about that, it doesn't hurt anything. If I'm right about it, maybe we make it better for this touring industry to go on," said Benning. "Not doing anything didn't feel good to me, and this is now the norm across cities in our country for music venues."
The Black Sheep, another live music venue in Colorado Springs, is also requiring guests ages 12 and older to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccine or a negative COVID test with 72 hours. That went into affect nearly two weeks ago.
For both venues, it's unclear how long the policy will be in place, but owners are keeping a close eye on health statistics in El Paso County.