Music fans will have to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 if they want to see a concert at some Maine venues this fall.

At least two venues in the state, the Opera House at Boothbay Harbor and Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, already require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, while others are considering it as a possibility this fall. Live Nation, one of the nation’s largest concert promotion companies, announced Friday that it would require proof of vaccination or negative tests from attendees at its shows beginning Oct. 4, unless the requirements violate any laws in place then.

Promoters and venues that work with Live Nation in Maine, including Waterfront Concerts and the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, said Monday that they will work toward meeting Live Nation’s requirements.

“I do think this is the right thing and do believe it is a must for us to have a shot at operating this fall,” said Alex Gray, who runs Waterfront Concerts and promotes shows around the state. “Live Nation is the biggest promoter so they had to respond to this. I commend them.”

Many Maine concert venues, including large outdoor spaces like Thompson’s Point in Portland and Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor, reopened this summer after being shut down since 2020. Health experts say that COVID-19 transmission is much less likely outdoors than indoors, but as winter approaches and the spread of the delta variant increases, some promoters and venue managers feel asking for proof of vaccination could be crucial to keeping their businesses open. At the end of last week, Maine’s seven-day average was 170 cases, the highest it has been since May.

The effort by national and local concert promoters and venues to require proof of vaccination follows a growing trend. Some Maine restaurants, as well as an increasing number of colleges, health care systems and major employers also are implementing vaccine policies.

NO COMPLAINTS, SO FAR

Gray said he has not heard complaints so far from people upset that Live Nation and others are implementing vaccination requirements for concertgoers, though he figures he will. He said other concert safety measures that are now common, like metal detectors and see-through bags, angered some people at first.

Claire Harrison, a music fan from Sanford, said Monday that she would welcome a vaccine requirement at concerts. Since the start of the pandemic, she’s only been out to see live music once – outdoors at Funky Bow Brewery in Lyman. Otherwise, she has not felt comfortable or safe enough to see shows with big crowds or indoors, especially when she doesn’t know how many others in the crowd have been vaccinated.

“Personally, I haven’t felt safe and probably wouldn’t until something like this is done,” Harrison, 27, said of vaccine requirements. “I think it’s a wonderful idea and will hopefully someday help end this pandemic.”

For many musicians, vaccine rules are about being able to keep working, said Toby McAllister, a singer-songwriter from Mechanic Falls and member of the band Sparks the Rescue. McAllister said he’s in favor of vaccination and test requirements, because it will help keep music venues operating and hiring musicians.

“After all the hardships the venues and musicians have been through, I think it’s the least people can do to make sure musicians can do their jobs and these places can stay open,” said McAllister, 34.

Singer songwriter Carol Noonan, who owns Stone Mountain Arts Center with her husband, Jeff Flagg, says their vaccination policy is about keeping their business going and keeping live music going for fans. The venue’s policy – which went into effect on Wednesday – says people need to show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of the show.

In an email to the Press Herald Monday, Noonan said that some people “have been really great” about it and some have been “really awful about it.” But she and her husband decided asking for vaccine proof was something they needed to do.

SOMETHING THEY NEEDED TO DO

“We have a lot at stake here and have already had to go through so much. This is also our home, not just our business, so this is all very personal,” wrote Noonan, who lives on the same property as Stone Mountain Arts Center. “Bottom line is that we don’t want live music to go away again, for all our sakes.”

Sooz Roberts, 57, has only been to outdoor concerts since the start of the pandemic. In early August, she went to the SoulFest Christian Music Festival in Gilford, New Hampshire. She stayed with the group she came with and did not mingle with the larger crowds near the stage. But she said she’d probably not go to a big indoor concert right now unless the promoter was asking for proof of vaccination.

“I’m all for that. I feel like I’ve done my share (by getting vaccinated) and would like to know if others around me at a concert had too,” said Roberts, of Sanford.

The outdoor crowd at the Luke Bryan concert on Aug. 5 at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor. Photo courtesy of Waterfront Concerts

Gray said Monday he will work with managers of the venues where Waterfront Concerts promotes shows on the details of what a vaccination/test policy will look like and how it might be implemented. He said that while Live Nation can enforce the policy at venues it owns, the Maine venues that host shows booked through Live Nation are independently owned and run. So they don’t have to follow Live Nation’s lead or timetable. Some of those include the city-owned Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor and the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

Portland spokesperson Jessica Grondin said in an email Monday that the city has no specific policy right now regarding vaccinations for Merrill audience members for fall shows. But based on information from Public Assembly Facilities Director Andy Downs, she said the city is prepared to work with all presenters on their proposed requirements. She said the city is currently involved in “planning discussions” with presenters and promoters.

At the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, General Manager Melanie Henkes said the arena would continue to “evolve” its policies around COVID-19 to comply with local ordinances and requirements from agents and promoters, including Live Nation and AEG Presents, another nationwide promotion company. AEG announced last week that it would require proof of full vaccination at clubs and theaters it owns.

WORKING SMOOTHLY

The Opera House at Boothbay Harbor has been requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from audience members since June, and so far the process has worked smoothly, Cathy Sherrill, the opera house director, said in an email to the Press Herald. A negative COVID test must be taken within 24 hours of the performance date.

The venue’s policy is written near the top of its website’s homepage and outlined on the venue’s phone messages. Facebook posts by the venue about its policy have not been met with negative comments.

“Right now audiences, knowing that everyone around them is vaccinated, are feeling comfortable,” Sherrill said in the email.

One Longfellow Square, which will reopen for shows in October, is currently discussing the possibility of a vaccination policy among board members while also getting input from other venues, interim director Jeff Beam said. He said board members feel like “a lot could change” in the coming weeks and months.

At Vinegar Hill Music Theatre in Arundel, Managing Director Sarah Dearing said Monday that the venue has only been at about 50 percent capacity for indoor shows and is holding more outdoor events. But she said the venue may consider a vaccine policy at some point, especially if COVID cases continue to rise, the variant continues to spread, and the state and federal CDC come out with new guidance.

“I think we might be coming to that point,” Dearing said.

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