Sep 16, 2021 - COVID
Major Sarasota entertainment venues now require COVID vaccine or negative test
Jerry Lee Lewis sits in front of a piano at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota.
Jerry Lee Lewis in 2019 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota. Please don't give him COVID. Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

As fall theater season kicks off, nine of the leading arts and cultural organizations in Sarasota County — including the Asolo Repertory Theater, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and Sarasota Orchestra — announced they will require proof of a COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test starting Sept. 26.

Yes, but: A Florida law enacted earlier this year bars businesses from requiring proof of vaccination and threatens a $5,000 fine for each violation.

Why it matters: The law does not address giving patrons an option — proof of vaccination or a negative test — and many arts and entertainment venues are enacting policies that will force a clear interpretation.

  • The policy is similar to those at Tampa’s Straz Center for the Performing Arts and the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando.

What they’re saying: "The arts and cultural organizations of Sarasota County comprise one of the three largest employment sectors of the community," the group wrote in a statement.

  • "An increasing number of patrons and artists are extremely uncomfortable participating without strong health and safety protocols in place."

By the numbers: Arts leaders said internal surveys show more than 90% of their patrons are already vaccinated.

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