More than 30 venues in Austin have joined forces to create a code-of-conduct and safety programme to allow the Texas city to reopen safely following year-long closures due to COVID-19.

The initiative, called Safe In Sound, outlines several standards and practices for venues to reopen, including reorganising venues to accommodate six-foot distancing between guests when appropriate.

It also underlines the importance of continuing to wear masks as necessary and conducting proper employee training for COVID safety.

Safe In Sound has been rolled out in response to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement earlier this month that mandatory mask wearing and capacity restrictions were being ended in the state from yesterday (Wednesday).

Red River cultural district executive director Cody Cowan said in statement: “After hearing from countless workers about the new level of fear that this new mandate has instilled upon those who work and perform within the district, I refuse to stand by and not stand up for what I, and many others like me, believe to be right.

“We hope that these collective actions send a strong message to the public that although we want to reopen, we will only do so in a manner that provides a safe environment for all.

“I strongly urge other local businesses to join this program as we look to better protect the safety of our patrons, performers, and employees.”

Austin venues involved in the Safe In Sound programme include ACL Live at The Moody Theater, Mohawk, Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, and Antone’s, Paramount Theatre, among many others.

Stephen Sternschein, founding board member of the National Independent Venues Association (NIVA) and managing partner of Austin promoter Heard Presents said in a statement: “The safety of our staff, performers, and patrons is of the utmost importance to our business at all times.

“With that said, our city has made great strides in combating COVID-19 and we are closer than ever to being able to fully reopen safely; however, that day has not yet arrived. The limiting factor is vaccinations – once shots are widely available to everyone in our community, we should be able to fully reopen, but not before.

“I’m proud to stand with like-minded small business owners in pledging to continue to operate at a reduced capacity and to continue to require masks until the CDC provides clear guidance that this is no longer necessary.”

Image: Jonathan Cutrer / CC BY 2.0 / Edited for size