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At a press conference on Friday afternoon, Mayor Michael Hancock announced that the city of Denver would be lifting its mask mandate in most situations and removing capacity limits and social distancing requirements starting Sunday.
“Go to a restaurant,” said Hancock. “Have fun.”
He noted that there will still be some places where masks are required, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, daycare centers, and schools. Indoor dining and performances, however, are mask-free.
He attributed this change in policy to the 42 percent of Denver residents who received the vaccine.
“If you haven’t been vaccinated, use this as a powerful incentive to vaccinate,” he said. “It happens because people got the shot.”
What is actually happening in Denver this summer?
If the Hancock administration has its way, downtown will come back to life and there is a lot to look forward to. The all-star game of Major League Baseball will take place, the Colorado Symphony will play a number of outdoor shows, Taste of Colorado will return for Labor Day weekend, the Downtown Denver Partnership will host 85 free lunch and Thursday evening concerts, and AEG Presents is booking a number of artists, including Fitz & the Tantrums, Itchy-O, and Goose, to play shows at Sculpture Park.
The hope, said Ginger White, director of Denver Arts & Venues, is to rebuild the music industry’s economy and revitalize downtown after pandemic shutdowns devastated restaurants, shops and galleries.
And a lot is already happening. Most of the museums are open. Red Rocks is already back in limited capacity. Many small venues have been filled with tiny crowds for months, and the Levitt Pavilion kicks off its summer season on Friday nights.
Still, most are hurting the industry, which closed last year and posted huge losses. Many small venue owners have taken out second mortgages on their homes to keep paying rent, and landlords are getting impatient, says Chris Zacher, co-head of the Colorado chapters of the National Independent Venue Association and Levitt Pavilion Denver. Music workers have been dependent on unemployment or have postponed the industry altogether.
“Before the pandemic, Colorado’s music industry was a breakneck $ 1.4 billion industry that supported around 16,000 jobs,” White said. “We’re excited to bring some of that economic momentum and jobs back to downtown Denver.
During the fall, our resident company will return to the [Denver Performing Arts Complex] Houses behind us are still in the works. The opportunity to bring some of us back together outdoors this summer is our focus.
What’s going to happen across Denver in the next few months is extraordinary – a coordinated effort to bring people outside to celebrate a summer in Colorado. “
Zacher expressed concern to Westword that the city is spending too much energy on boosting downtown and not enough in other areas like South Broadway and East Colfax Avenue, where many smaller venues are trying to stay afloat.
And he doesn’t think the time is right for Denver Arts & Venues, the city’s cultural agency, to launch new programs and open a new venue in Sculpture Park – especially at a big company like AEG Presents – if so many of the little bars, clubs and theaters in town are struggling right now. As he says, additional competition from the company that has dominated the city’s music business for the past few years would be difficult for these venues, and while he respects AEG’s right to compete aggressively in a free market, he fears that this could be the city of Denver preferring the relationship with this company over smaller companies.
Arts & Venues, a corporate agency that finances itself by renting out its venues, has suffered significant financial losses since March 2020. Some of these are likely to be recouped when federal closed venues operators get emergency funds for the agency-provided venues up, like Red Rocks. Arts & Venues is also looking for other ways to fill its exhausted coffers, and the partnership with AEG likely will.
White assured Westword that this was not an exclusive partnership with AEG, noting that other promoters would be invited to participate in the Sculpture Park concert series.
“We are open to other interested parties who want to participate,” she said. “And I know our staff will book other opportunities for local musicians and organizations to enjoy the amenities that will be found here in the Sculpture Park later this summer.”
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Kyle Harris stopped making documentaries and started writing when he realized he could tell hundreds of stories in the same amount of time it took to make a movie. Now he’s the arts editor for Westword, writing about music and art.