Let the music play: Montgomery Co. will allow outdoor live performances; audience limited to 50

After being shuttered for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, music halls, theater companies and other venues in Montgomery County are being given the go-ahead to stage concerts and other live performances provided that they follow new guidelines issued by the county.

Among the new ground rules: Only outdoor performances are being given the green light and all performers must get a COVID-19 test before the run of any shows.

Other guidelines, issued by the county Thursday, include:

  • The number of audience members are limited to 50 people
  • Maintaining at least 6 feet of distance between guests who are not part of the same household.
  • The wearing of face masks by guests and venue staff at all times
  • Temperature checks of all staff
  • The sanitizing of surfaces and common areas

See the full list of requirements on the Montgomery County website.

Venues that want to host live performance must submit a letter of approval, which they can do online.

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As part of that process, venues must submit seating charts that demonstrate compliance with physical distancing requirements.

“This is a delicate balance, which is why we’re beginning cautiously,” said County Executive Marc Elrich in a statement. “We are trying to find ways to allow performances while we are continuing to look at the intractability of our case count numbers — they are not going down in any sort of consistent manner — we have to keep that constantly in mind as we make adjustments. I appreciate people’s continued understanding and hope that we are able to have successful performances in a safe manner.”

The music scene in the D.C. area has taken a big hit during the coronavirus pandemic, with a number of venues being forced to close their doors, including the Eighteenth Street Lounge and Twins Jazz last month, alone.

DC Music Stakeholders, a coalition of venue owners and musicians have pressed leaders in the District to provide more financial support.

Most venues began canceling events during the in March.

Just two weeks ago, a number of venues were lit up with red floodlights, calling attention to the “Red Alert” faced by theaters and concert halls that have been without an audience for over six months.

There was a rally on the National Mall to call attention to the struggles faced by the live events industry on Sept. 1, and then venues including the National Theatre and Warner Theatre were lit in red that evening.

A number of venues have turned to drive-in and streaming events to generate a trickle of income. For example, in early August, Wolf Trap, the iconic outdoor music venue in Northern Virginia, offered a week of music-themed movies in their spacious parking lot.

In June, a group of live event producers discussed the impact the pandemic has had on their business, which includes not just those who put on shows and conferences, but all of the small vendors that service those events.

Some live music venues, such as the Birchmere in Alexandria, are putting on indoor concerts following social distance guidelines.

WTOP’s Dan Friedell contributed to this report. 


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Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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