Many of Oregon's largest performing arts venues are expressing renewed frustration about the state's lack of reopening guidelines for the live events industry.
In a letter sent to Gov. Kate Brown's office last week, more than 40 venues from around the state requested the same restrictions given to other indoor venues like churches, bars and restaurants, as well as the ability to reopen at full capacity 30 days after a county is given a low-risk designation.
"Venues patrons do not remove their masks for a long duration," reads the letter. "Venue visitors are monitored by highly trained staff—in fact, it is the primary purpose of these employees. Venues are highly regulated spaces where the health and safety of our patrons, staff and artists always have and always will be the highest priority."
The letter is signed by many of the state's biggest venues and arts organizations, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, McMenamins, the Pendleton Roundup and the Oregon Symphony.
In a statement released today, the coalition says its concerns have gone unanswered.
"The governor's team has not responded to this letter, nor was it addressed in the March 31 meeting," reads the statement, which also references a webinar with Gov. Brown and members of the industry held the same day the letter was sent. "Questions submitted by attendees of the meeting addressed the development of benchmarks that can be used to design a path to reopening. Meeting participants were told that there was no strategy, and that the governor would not be pursuing any input from the industry."
Asked for comment, Brown's office told WW that Oregon will "continue to assess the situation" as cases drop and more people are vaccinated.
"Gov. Brown has been committed to revisiting Oregon's health and safety guidance as case rates decline," a spokesperson told WW via email. "In an effort to support venue operators, we recently expanded outdoor entertainment capacity by removing hard caps and transitioning to a percent-based limit, and we're currently exploring whether a similar expansion for indoor entertainment would also work."
Though some smaller venues have reopened with limited capacity, others have found the option financially untenable. The letter sent to Brown's office last week claims that "virtually all venues in Oregon are simply unable to operate at anything less than 60% capacity."
Oregon's live events venues have long felt ignored by pandemic measures. Last year, a coalition of local and national music venues lobbied for months for industry-specific financial support, a campaign that was ultimately successful.