Northeast Ohio Venues join together to require proof of vaccination at the door

By: Derek Kreider, general assignment reporter

Photos by Derek Kreider

Fourteen locations across the region have banded together to announce that they will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for entry into events

The group announced the policy on Aug. 18, and it goes into effect for all the venues involved no later than Sept. 7.

Included in the announcement are Akron’s own Jilly’s Music Room, Musica, The Rialto Theater and art-house cinema The Nightlight.

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A wave of announcements like these have recently swept through the entertainment industry, says Jilly’s Music Room owner Jill Bacon Madden.

“A group about this same size in Nashville came out a week before us, the city of New Orleans came out, the entire bar alliance of San Francisco — which is about 500-plus bars — came out with one,” she says. “We were able to do some fairly decent benchmarking with other policies that had just been put into place to craft ours.”

Though exact specifics will differ from venue to venue, each policy will follow the same basic template.

“Basically, you walk in and you show either your proof of a negative test within either 48 or 72 hours of opening… Or you show your proof of vaccination,” says Bacon Madden. Proof may be provided physically or digitally. Photos of tests must be time stamped and vaccination cards must match the information on attendees’ government issued identification, she says.

When the restrictions go into effect, or shortly thereafter, Bacon Madden says they’re going to begin using an app by Bindle that allows users to safely store their vaccination and test records on their phones.

Andrew Wells, manager of Musica, says his decision to join the coalition in their announcement is driven by a concern for his audience. “The cases are on the rise,” he says, “and we want to keep people safe.”

“But I think it’ll make people feel confident that people are at least caring about their safety,” says Wells. “Some people who might not have come to a show because there’s so many people cramped together in a small room, maybe now they’ll feel a little more at ease to venture out of the house.”

The Nighlight’s manager Jenn Kidd said that even with the facility’s new air purification system, the proof-of-vaccination or negative test for entry is necessary to keep their audience safe.

“I know for a fact [our air is clean]”, says Kidd, “But even with that, I want to do whatever I can to mitigate risk.”

Not everyone has received this news with grace. “We’ve had some really crappy social media comments,” Bacon Madden says. “Some of us have been threatened.”

Despite the backlash, there has been an outpouring of positivity following the news.

“There are probably 75% of the people, maybe 80, maybe even 85% of the people are really appreciative and are glad that we’re doing things like this to help keep people safe, and to help keep our venues safe,” Bacon Madden says.

If another shutdown should happen, Bacon Madden says, there would be dire results “emotionally and psychologically” for communities if they lose what they’ve only just gotten back after over a year long drought.

“We believe that we’re doing the right thing,” she says, “We believe that vaccinations are the way out of this pandemic.”

The full list includes Cleveland’s Agora, Beachland Ballroom & Tavern, Bop Stop, The Foundry, Grog Shop, Happy Dog, Music Box Supper Club; Lakewood’s Mahall’s, and The Winchester Music Tavern; Akron’s Jilly’s Music Room, Musica, The Nightlight, and The Rialto Theater; and the West Side Bowl in Youngstown.

In a call back to last year, Bacon Madden reminds us of the original plan: “We need to flatten that curve again,” she says. “We haven’t heard it in awhile, but we need to flatten the damn curve.”

Derek Kreider is distribution manager and general assignment reporter for The Devil Strip

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