Cincinnati Music Venues Add New Mask, Vaccination Requirements Due to COVID-19 Spread

Memorial Hall, Riverbend Music Center, the ICON, Bogart's and several other Cincinnati venues are now requiring masks, vaccinations or COVID-19 tests.

click to enlarge Foo Fighters at the ICON Festival Stage at Smale Park - Photo: Brittany Thornton
Photo: Brittany Thornton
Foo Fighters at the ICON Festival Stage at Smale Park

Multiple Cincinnati music venues have announced new precautions against COVID-19, including those frequented by the biggest stars.

Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine announced Aug. 16 that it would require all patrons, staff members, contractors and volunteers to wear masks indoors. The policy is effective immediately and applies regardless of vaccination status.

“The health and safety of our audiences, artists and staff is our top priority,” an email from Memorial Hall said.

Those within the venue will be required to wear masks at all times when not actively eating or drinking.

Venue representatives said that while there’s no vaccine requirement to enter Memorial Hall, some individual performers may require it for certain shows. Memorial Hall said that ticketholders who are not vaccinated can request refunds from the box office at least 24 hours before a show begins.

Some artists, indeed, are requiring vaccination for entry. Maroon 5 recently announced that those attending the band's concert at Cincinnati's Riverbend Music Center on Aug. 28 would need to show proof of full vaccination from COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test from within 48 hours prior to the show.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a fully vaccinated person is one who is two weeks past their second dose of a two-dose vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna) or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson).

Maroon 5 also is encouraging concertgoers to remain masked for the duration of its show.

Some of Cincinnati's largest venues are requiring proof of vaccination, as well. In an email Monday, Music & Event Management, Inc. (MEMI) said that it would require vaccinations or negative COVID-19 tests at all of its venues beginning Oct. 4.

“The policy is being enacted in an effort to safeguard the health of concertgoers, touring artists and employees, and to prevent another shutdown of live music, which devastated the business amidst the pandemic in 2020 thru May of 2021,” MEMI’s email said.

In October, MEMI’s venues — including Riverbend Music Center, PNC Pavilion, Andrew J Brady ICON Music Center, ICON Festival Stage at Smale Park and Taft Theatre — will require concertgoers to show their original COVID-19 vaccination card, a printed copy, or proof of a negative COVID-19 test no more than 48 hours prior to the show. 

For shows before Oct. 4, performers will dictate individual safety precautions, MEMI said. The company said it will send emails with more information and options to ticketholders soon.

The new precautions at local venues follow a nationwide trend. Promoter Live Nation recently said that it would require all concertgoers, performers and crew to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or to present proof of a recent negative diagnostic test within 72 hours of the start of a show. The policy begins Oct. 4 and will include Live Nation venues nationwide, including Bogart’s in Corryville.

“Vaccines are going to be your ticket back to shows, and as of October 4th 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.,” Live Nation reps said in a release.

The nationwide AEG also recently announced that the new PromoWest Pavilion at OVATION in Newport would require proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test beginning with its first concert (by Kesha) on Aug. 29. Later, on Oct. 1, the venue will accept only proof of full vaccination, not recent COVID-19 tests.

Live Nation may be giving a boost to the nation's lagging vaccination rate. LiveNation told NBC News recently that 12% of fans who went to Lollapalooza in Chicago cited the vaccination policy as their reason to get the jab.

According to recent numbers, the Delta variant of the coronavirus is rampaging through Ohio, with the state reporting 3,272 new cases on Aug. 11 alone.

Perhaps more alarmingly, the number of cases per 100,000 Ohioans is approaching 200, after being just under 18 on July 7. That’s more than an 11-fold increase in just five weeks.

Things are no better across the river. In Kentucky, where Gov. Andy Beshear just instituted a Commonwealth-wide school masking mandate, there has been recent exponential growth in statewide COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

"Without intervention, at the rate we are currently at, we expect to have the most Kentuckians hospitalized due to COVID in two weeks than we have had at any time during this pandemic," Beshear said during an Aug. 10 briefing.

The Delta variant of the coronavirus largely has been responsible for the sharp uptick in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and scientists warn that this strain is much more dangerous than the original virus. People infected with Delta carry 1,000 times more of the virus, which makes it easier to transmit among others when speaking, singing, sneezing or breathing hard, particularly within indoor areas. Health experts say that Delta is more than twice as easy to spread as the first strain.

Unvaccinated individuals are at the highest risk for severe infection and substantial health issues from coronavirus, experts say, though some vaccinated individuals have also become infected due to Delta's highly contagious nature. Symptoms and rates are less severe in individuals who are fully vaccinated with a Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine, though. According to the CDC, a “fully vaccinated” person is one who is two weeks past their second dose of a two-dose vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna) or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine (J&J).

All major hospital systems in Greater Cincinnati recently announced that by fall, they would require COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees, contractors and volunteers.

Visit to find COVID vaccine providers in Ohio and to find the vaccine in Kentucky. 

Vince Grzegorek contributed to this story.

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