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'It's like checking ID at the door' | DC club owners want to require proof of vaccines to enter

Owners of more than a dozen live music venues have pitched Mayor their idea

WASHINGTON — Live entertainment returns to D.C. Saturday, May 1, but a growing number of club owners say the restrictions make it difficult, if not nearly impossible, to offer live music in smaller venues.  

But the owner of the popular blues bar, Madams Organ in Adams Morgan, thinks he has a solution. Bill Duggan appealed to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to allow venues to reopen at full capacity if they require employees, band members and patrons to all be vaccinated. 

Right now, Bowser's proposal allows venues to offer live entertainment with 25% capacity or 500 people (whichever is less) and guidelines that people stand 12 or 18 feet away from the stage. 

Duggan said that space simply does not exist in many commercial rowhouses in D.C. arguing that 18 feet from the stage would put his patrons at the back door of the small club. He wants to step away from the term vaccine passport but said verifying someone’s status would occur as security at the door checks IDs to enter.  He said more than a dozen venues have signed on to letter to the Mayor.

Credit: Bill Duggan

“Think about it, would you rather be a couple of feet away from someone who’s been vaccinated or 6 feet from someone who you don’t know their status?” asked Duggan, “I think it’s a lot safer and I think it’s a great incentive for the city to get more people vaccinated.”  

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Duggan said the Mayor’s current reopen plan is “killing businesses” that cannot survive the shutdown and strict restrictions. 

Madams Organ has been closed since March 2020. Duggan said the only reason his business has survived is because he purchased the location on 18th Street, Northwest, back in the mid-1990s.  

There is no word yet on what the Bowser will decide.

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