SYRACUSE (TNS) – To see a show this season at CMAC, you’ll have to prove you’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19. To catch a concert at Beak & Skiff, you’ll need to buy tickets in a “pod” and wear a mask unless you’re in your seat.

At Saratoga Performing Arts Center – at least for the first few shows — you’ll need to buy tickets in pods and present evidence that you’ve been vaccinated or tested negative.

After a lost concert season in 2020, venue operators and promoters are hungry to bring as many fans as possible this summer. They’re struggling to adjust to changing state regulations while bringing in as many fans as possible and trying to recoup some of last year’s lost profits.

“It’s a tough game,” said Donny Dixie, general manager of Apple Hill, the outdoor concert venue at Beak & Skiff, in Tully. “Every week it changes. We have to do this this week, then, no, we don’t have to do it next week.”

In early March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said entertainment venues could reopen, with a host of restrictions, including masks, social distancing and capacity limits. Earlier this month, he threw open the gates to 100% — if everybody is vaccinated. A 33% capacity restriction is gone, but if venues don’t require proof of vaccination, they have to space people out, effectively restricting capacity to one-third anyway.

That leaves operators with a dilemma: Implement and enforce a complex system of spacing and masking that restricts crowd size, or pack the place with only the vaccinated, risking the wrath of unvaccinated fans.

“I can see the backlash,” said Dan Mastronardi, who is putting together shows at the new Apple Valley Park, in Tully, which is not requiring proof of vaccination. “I hope people get vaccinated, but I can’t make them, and to each his own.”

Apple Valley, on the grounds of the LaFayette Apple Festival, was the first local venue to hold a summer concert this year. The jam band Twiddle played Thursday through Sunday nights, in front of groups of fans who bought their tickets together seated in their own roped-off areas. Aisles between the groups were 8 feet wide, and concertgoers had to wear masks whenever they stepped out of their pod.

“Everything worked out as planned,” Mastronardi said. “Fans seemed to like the pods, and they were respective of the Covid protocols.”

All of that spacing meant a venue that could hold 20,000 will have a maximum of 2,000, Mastronardi said.

While other venues say they may change things up later if regulations change, Apple Valley will adhere to its plan for the season, Mastronardi said.

“We put a lot of time and effort in the set up to remain socially distanced, and that’s what we feel is safest,” he said. “We’re going above and beyond to make sure the patrons are safe and have a good concert experience.”

Tickets are already on sale for some shows at St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater, but Live Nation, which promotes shows and sells tickets at the 17,500-seat venue, declined to discuss Covid-19 plans. Spokesman Ike Richman said any Covid restrictions “will be shared on our website and directly with ticket holders with information.”

The first show, by country superstar Luke Bryan, is scheduled for July 8. Live Nation’s website tells ticket-buyers for the show that there will be “new safety initiatives which you will need to accept and adopt in order to attend the event,” but none of those initiatives are spelled out in the nearly 6,400-word terms of use.

At SPAC, also run by Live Nation the season-opening three-night stand by guitarist Trey Anastasio will be limited to 30% capacity. Concertgoers will have to sit in two-or four-person groups, or “pods,” wear masks except when eating or drinking, and present proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

(Neither Live Nation nor Six Flags Darien Lake have posted information about concert protocols at the theme park’s amphitheater. The first show, Disturbed, is scheduled for July 21.)

At least two large amphitheaters – CMAC and Artpark – are taking a different path. Both venues recently announced they’ll allow only vaccinated patrons in the gates. That means no masks, no distancing – and sell-out crowds.

“Given NYS and Ontario County mandates, CMAC has made the decision to open its 2021 season as a fully vaccinated site,” the Finger Lakes venue said in a statement.

CMAC says concertgoers can show proof of a vaccination with their Covid-19 Vaccination Record Card or by using the New York State Excelsior Pass (available for download here). Photo ID will also be required.

CMAC’s season opens July 3 with patriotic music by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

Artpark in Lewiston announced last week that only fully vaccinated patrons will be admitted to public events of a capacity above 500 persons this year.

“This policy will help ensure all patrons, artists, employees and volunteers feel safe at concerts at the Artpark Amphitheater this summer,” a statement said. “Artpark is respectful that some are unable or not willing to receive the vaccine and understand this may be upsetting.”

The NYS Blues Fest will move this year from downtown Syracuse to Chevy Court at the New York State Fairgrounds, allowing the festival to try yet a different approach: separate sections for vaccinated and unvaccinated, with separate protocols for each.

The festival will still be free, but unvaccinated attendees will have to get tickets in advance at nysbluesfest.com. They will have to wear masks and practice social distancing, according to current New York state and CDC guidelines.

Fully vaccinated attendees will not need to get tickets, but will need to show proof of the Covid-19 vaccine at the gate with their vaccination card or the Excelsior Pass app on their smartphone. Vaccinated concertgoers will not need to wear masks or socially distance.

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