Steamboat City Council OKs downtown live music event after initial confusion from county
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Live music will return this Labor Day weekend to downtown Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat Springs City Council approved a three-day outdoor concert series hosted by The Press during a regular meeting Tuesday. The event will be one of the first live music events in Steamboat since the onset of COVID-19.
But the event’s approval didn’t come without challenge and concern.
An emergency ordinance was required by the city to permit open containers and possession of alcoholic beverages in the parking lot on the northeast corner of 10th and Yampa streets, where the concert would be held. Steamboat Springs City Attorney Dan Foote indicated the city had coordinated with the Routt County Department of Public Health and had initially been advised the proposal complied with the county’s public health regulations.
City staff, however, was unwilling to make a recommendation of approval to council based on the county health department’s later indication that it does not support gatherings of more than 25 people, “regardless of whether the gathering complies with public health orders.”
Foote said city staff was advised of this by Routt County representatives on Aug. 27.
Routt County Environmental Health Director Scott Cowman suggested the 25-person limit stemmed from a previous comment made by Dr. Brian Harrington, Routt County Public Health medical officer, to the Routt County Board of Health.
Cowman confirmed that, in fact, that number could not be enforced as it had not been specified in any existing public health order.
“(I’m) very disappointed to hear that the county kind of had this arbitrary 25-person rule all of a sudden,” Council member Lisel Petis said. “I don’t think that’s fair to businesses to put in something that is not an order.”
According to the county’s website, organized events of up to 125 people are permitted to be held outdoors.
Ed Andreoni, owner of The Press, said he believed his business was being treated differently considering several recent public events that were held with large turnouts, including the Main Street Steamboat Springs Farmers Market and Strings Music Festival and Opera Steamboat concerts.
“I’ve met every county and state regulation,” Andreoni told council. “To not let this event happen is just not right.”
The concert’s site is privately owned but leased to the city for public use. The event would require closure of the parking lot, beginning at 8 a.m. Friday, and the closure of the adjacent alley beginning at 3 p.m. Friday. Both closures would end at 11 p.m. Sunday.
While alcoholic beverages would not be available for purchase within the confines of the concert space, people would be allowed to bring in food and alcoholic beverages from other establishments.
Tickets to the event would be limited to 118 per day. Concertgoers would be socially distanced with four-person pods, similar to other in-person events held in Steamboat earlier this summer.
Steamboat Police Chief Cory Christenson told council he was satisfied with the event’s security plan, with respect to crowd control. Though it was said staff was less certain about ensuring social distancing if groups of people gather outside the venue’s perimeter fence.
“Events like these are not without risk,” Cowman said.
Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith pointed to Gov. Jared Polis’ warning about the likely loosening of social distancing when people consume alcohol.
“We’re still not out of the pandemic, yet,” Smith cautioned.
Local musician John Fogerty, who will be one of the performers during the event, said he feels the concert would be safer than a lot of things going on on a daily basis.
“Restaurants will have more people in and out,” he said. “Think of it from a rational perspective.”
Cal Cramer, local musician and co-applicant for the event, said he felt the live music industry in Steamboat had been ignored in the wake of the pandemic.
“Other counties have been much more invested in live music,” he told council.
With protocols for virus mitigation and security in place, and determining that the event met all public health orders, council voted 6-0 — with Council Member Sonja Macys not present for the vote — to approve the ordinance and allow the event to proceed.
“We need to be thinking innovatively and differently,” Petis said, who admitted she was excited to hear of The Press’ live concert. “But it needs to be done really safely. I would encourage the city to immediately revoke the event permit if it’s not being done safely.”
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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