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Lincoln Hall
Photograph: Jonathan Crawford

These Chicago music venues require proof of vaccination to see a show

The new policies are a matter of survival, allowing venues to safely continue operating after being closed for months.

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Written by
Zach Long
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Last week, a fully vaccinated employee at music venue and coffee bar Golden Dagger tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the small Lincoln Park business to close for two days and ensure that none of its other employees had contracted the virus. Owner Donnie Biggins and his staff decided that the reopening of the venue would be an appropriate time to introduce a vaccination requirement for all guests (in addition to an indoor masking policy), asking anyone entering the business to provide physical proof of vaccination and a matching government-issued photo ID.

"We can't go backward here. We were given the green light to reopen with full capacity, which is necessary for our businesses to thrive and prevent us from going out of business," Biggins said about his decision to require that anyone entering his venue is vaccinated. "I think it's a necessary action to take in order to encourage people to get the vaccine."

Plenty of other music venues have instituted similar vaccination policies over the past week, flooding their various social media platforms with announcements outlining the documents that will be required to gain entry to performances on local stages. Some venues are requiring that attendees be fully vaccinated, providing their original vaccine card, a photocopy of the card or a digital photo. Others are also accepting a negative COVID-19 test (performed within 72 hours of entering the venue) from attendees who have not been vaccinated. Nearly all venues with vaccination requirements in place are matching the names on vaccination cards and negative COVID-19 tests to a government photo ID—a step that Lollapalooza notably didn't take when the festival welcomed 100,000 attendees to Grant Park last weekend.

For Avondale bar and concert hall Sleeping Village, requiring proof of vaccination is a return to a policy that the venue introduced when it began welcoming guests back earlier this year. "We had been requiring proof of vaccination going back to May and changed our policy as things got better," Sleeping Village co-owner Billy Helmkamp said. "With the rise of the Delta variant, we felt it was best to resume the vaccination requirement."

While many local music venues have introduced new entry guidelines that apply to all guests, staff and performers, policies differ based on where you're seeing a show. Venues like the Empty Bottle, Thalia Hall and Subterranean are currently accepting negative COVID-19 test performed within 72 hours of entering their venues, while places like Golden Dagger, Sleeping Village, Schubas Tavern and Lincoln Hall have decided to not accept negative COVID-19 tests.

"We feel that the risk of infection in the window between testing and attending a show is too great to take any chances," Schubas talent buyer Dan Apodaca said. "With unvaccinated people being the most vulnerable to the virus, we believe this is currently the safest approach for the community."

The disparities in proof of vaccination and negative COVID-19 test policies can largely be attributed to state and city officials' reluctance to weigh in on the matter, leaving small businesses (like Chicago bars and restaurants) to form their own policies.

"We're not public health officials, we need our leaders in our communities and we need everyone in our city government to get behind it and implement these rules," Biggins said. "It shouldn't be up to the small businesses that have already been affected so negatively."

Without clear instructions or guidelines from public health official, it's also unclear when venues will lift their current proof of vaccination and negative COVID-19 test requirements. Asked about when he might be comfortable allowing guests to enter without proof of vaccination, Biggins underscored the lack of guidance that small Chicago businesses have been provided with. "The fact that I don't really know how to respond to [that question] is the reason why I shouldn't be the one that's making the decision," Biggins said.

Even without official recommendations to lean on, Chicago venue owners are taking matters into their own hand in an effort to ensure their survival. According to Helmkamp, a recent survey of venues that are part of the Chicago Independent Venue League found that most of the participating businesses have already instituted a proof of vaccination requirement.

"We're independent. It's in CIVL's name. Venues are going to do what they feel is right," Helmkamp said. "But overall, I think everyone wants to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror and are taking steps that they feel will most effectively get us there."

Take a look at the latest list of Chicago musics venues with proof of vaccination and negative COVID-19 test requirements below—and don't forget a copy of your card the next time you head to a show.

Lincoln Hall and Schubas Tavern

Requiring an original, photocopy or phone photo of a vaccination card (with last dose administered 14 days prior to date of arrival) that match the name on a government-issued photo ID.

Metro

Requiring proof of vaccination (with last dose administered 14 days prior to date of arrival) and a government-issued photo ID.

Golden Dagger

Requiring proof of full vaccination (hard copies, photocopies or digital photos) that matches the name on a government-issued photo ID for all dine-in guests and concert attendees.

Hideout

Requiring vaccination card and a a government-issued photo ID.

Constellation and Hungry Brain

Requiring vaccination card (or a photocopy or digital photo) upon entry.

Sleeping Village

Requiring an original, photocopy or phone photo of a vaccination card (with last dose administered 14 days prior to date of arrival) that match the name on a government-issued photo ID.

Empty Bottle, Beauty Bar and Thalia Hall

Requiring proof of full vaccination (hard copies, photocopies or digital photos) or a negative COVID-19 test performed within the previous 72 hours prior to entry. Masks must be worn by guests when not eating or drinking. In effect through October 31.

Subterranean and Beat Kitchen

Requiring digital or physical proof of full vaccination or a digital or physical proof of a negative COVID-19 test performed within the previous 72 hours prior to entry. Masks must be worn by guests when not eating or drinking.

Concord Music Hall

Requiring digital or physical proof of full vaccination or digital or physical proof of a negative COVID-19 test performed within the previous 72 hours prior to entry.

Radius

Requiring digital or physical proof of full vaccination or digital or physical proof of a negative COVID-19 test performed within the previous 72 hours prior to entry.

City Winery Chicago

Requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test performed within the previous 72 hours prior to entry. Masks are required when moving indoors.

SPACE

Requiring proof of full vaccination (hard copies, photocopies or digital photos) or a negative COVID-19 test performed within the previous 72 hours prior to entry.

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