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Live industry in Western Australia ‘disappointed’ over tighter restrictions

Western Australia’s live entertainment industry has warned that under the state’s new tighter restrictions for events some businesses which rely on festivals “simply won’t make it to next summer”.

Following the announcement of the new rules last week, Live Entertainment WA (LEWA), an umbrella body that includes major promoters and other businesses in the industry, has this week held urgent talks with the state’s chief health officer, Andrew Robertson.

During the meeting with Robertson, five members of LEWA and its health consultant asked for clarification of the guidelines and conveyed how devastating 2020 had been for the industry.

John Zaccaria, the association vice president, told The Music Network that Western Australia’s live restrictions are tougher than those in other states, adding that cricket and football matches with bigger crowds in less supervised situations have been allowed to go ahead.

He said: “LEWA expected guidelines to be relaxed rather than tightened and is disappointed this did not happen.

“The industry has worked hard to abide by all guidelines and has had no instance of any COVID-19 infection or scare. There’s been no misbehaviour at all at any event run by LEWA members.

“Events have been cancelled, postponed and held in limbo as things clarify. The truth is that it is almost impossible to profitably promote successful live events with the current restrictions.”

Under the new restrictions for events, concerts with permanent and temporary fixed seating must now have a minimum of two square metres per person, while seating groups 1.5m apart and have no dance area, stage or moshpit. These venues will also be required to have a maximum of 10,000 patrons, cut alcohol service after six hours and have a ticketing or a contact register system.

Meanwhile, the rules state that at concerts with no fixed seating with patrons bringing their own chairs or picnic rugs, they must remain seated, and attendance is capped to 6,000. LEWA asked authorities to raise the audience cap from 6,000 to 12,000 to counterbalance the fees paid to performers and additional COVID-related costs as marshals, security and sanitising stations.

During festivals where alcohol is the primary focus, including, but not limited to, music and beer/wine festivals, restrictions include a ban on visible stages, entertainment, performances or focal points of interest.

They will have a maximum of six hours of alcohol service, 10,000 patrons and ticketing must facilitate collection of the minimum required contact information for each attendee, to facilitate contact tracing.

In addition, dance floors and stages are permitted at events with up to 1,500 people, bringing the guidelines in line with indoor venues as pubs and clubs.

The WA Health Department said it had expected to relax restrictions after its three-month review, but outbreaks on the east coast and new COVID strains have halted those plans. The new requirements will be reassessed in March 2021.

The WAHD also noted that some events had not adhered to their own COVID-Safe rules, and a more “defined set of requirements for a range of event formats” was needed to be staged in a “consistent manner across the state.”

The guidelines warned: “Failure to comply with a COVID Event Plan may result in the event being closed down or future COVID Event Plans by the event organiser being rejected.

“It may also impact future events by the same artist performing in a similar format.”