Denver will raise masks necessities and social distancing forward of the All Star Summer season

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Mayor Michael Hancock is ready for a mask-free “All-Star Summer”.

Jon Solomon

Mayor Michael Hancock announced that the city of Denver will be lifting its mask mandate in most areas and starting Sunday, May 16.

“Go to a restaurant,” Hancock said at a press conference called to highlight the upcoming summer. “Have fun.”

The mayor pointed out that there will still be some places where masks are required, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, daycare centers and schools. But indoor performances and food will be mask-free.

He attributed this change in policy to the 42 percent of Denver residents who received the vaccine.

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“If you haven’t been vaccinated, it should be a strong incentive to get vaccinated,” 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. Major League Baseball’s all-star game will take place, the Colorado Symphony will play a number of outdoor shows, Taste of Colorado returns on Labor Day weekend, the Downtown Denver Partnership is hosting 85 free concerts at lunchtime and Thursday evenings and AEG Presents is booking a number of artists, including Fitz & the Tantrums, Itchy-O, and Goose, to play shows in the sculpture park.

The hope, said Ginger White, director of Denver Arts & Venues, is to rebuild the music industry’s economy and revitalize downtown after the pandemic shutdown devastated restaurants, shops and galleries.

And a lot is happening already. Most of the museums are open. Red Rocks is back in limited capacity. Many small venues have been up and running for months with tiny crowds, and the Levitt Pavilion kicked off its summer season on May 14th.

Still, most in the industry, which closed last year and posted huge losses, are suffering as a result. Many small venue owners have taken out second mortgages on their homes to keep paying the rent, and landlords are getting impatient, says Chris Zacher, co-head of the Colorado Chapter of the National Independent Venue Association and Levitt Pavilion Denver. Music workers were dependent on unemployment or have completely relocated the industry.

“Before the pandemic, Colorado’s music industry was a staggering $ 1.4 billion industry that supported around 16,000 jobs,” White said. “We are excited to bring some of that economic momentum and jobs back to downtown Denver.
During the autumn return of our resident businesses to the [Denver Performing Arts Complex] Homes Behind Us is still a work in progress, the ability to bring some of us back together outdoors this summer is our focus.
What’s going to happen in Denver over 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 strengthening downtown and not enough in other areas like South Broadway and East Colfax Avenue, where many smaller venues are trying to survive.

And he doesn’t think the time is ripe for Denver Arts & Venues, the city’s cultural agency, to kickstart a new program and open a new venue in Sculpture Park – especially with a giant corporation like AEG Presents – if so many of them small 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 tough on favoring its relationship with that company over smaller companies for these venues.

Arts & Venues, a corporate agency funded by renting out its venues, has suffered major financial losses since March 2020. Some of these are likely to be recouped when the state’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant comes through with emergency money for the venues the agency offers, like Red Rocks. Arts & Venues is also looking for other ways to fill its empty 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 would like 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 here at the Sculpture Park later this summer.”

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