This story has been updated with news from Ottawa Public Health on Tuesday afternoon.
A group spearheaded by Ottawa Bluesfest boss Mark Monahan is planning to host a live outdoor concert next week at Lansdowne Park in a first-of-its-kind event that will require all spectators to be screened for COVID-19 in advance.
The Ontario Festival Industry Task Force and local event organizer DNA Live are joining forces to present the show, dubbed The Long Road Back, scheduled for March 27 at Lansdowne Park in partnership with the National Arts Centre, the Ottawa Festival Network and the Canadian Live Music Association.
Ottawa-based Motown tribute band The Commotions will provide the entertainment for the evening performance at Lansdowne’s Casino Lac-Leamy Plaza. Attendance will be limited to 100 fans, and all spectators – even those who’ve already been vaccinated – as well as staff, musicians and crew must prove they’ve tested negative for the novel coronavirus within 48 hours before the band performs.
Organizers said later Tuesday the concert sold out within an hour. However, it now appears the event will have to be postponed after the city's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, said Tuesday afternoon the city will likely move to the red zone in the province's colour-coded pandemic scheme some time next week.
Under red-zone rules, outdoor public gatherings are limited to 25 people.
Organizers say the event will be rescheduled "for the earliest possible date" should restrictions be tightened. Tickets will still be valid for the new date, and full refunds will be provided if the show is ultimately cancelled.
Tests at Shoppers Drug Mart
Staff at participating Shoppers Drug Mart locations will administer the rapid antigen tests, which are expected to provide results in about half an hour. Screening will be available from 3:30 p.m. on March 25 to 3:30 p.m. on March 27 if the concert goes ahead next weekend.
Monahan, who chairs the task force that was launched during the pandemic to boost the province’s music industry, says the concert will help set the stage for a successful return to major outdoor events during the upcoming festival season.
“As we look ahead to the summer of 2021 and beyond, establishing best practices for live music events now is critical,” he said in a statement. “In order to produce summer and fall events, rapid COVID-19 antigen screening is needed to demonstrate live concerts can happen safely.”
Tickets are $25 and must be purchased in groups of four. There is no extra charge for the COVID-19 test.
Fans will be seated at tables, and all safety protocols, including masking and physical distancing between groups, will be enforced.
Glebe BIA executive director Andrew Peck lauded organizers for their “willingness to find innovative and safe ways” to support local artists and boost the economy.
“Increasingly, we must look to COVID-friendly models of programming that adhere to restrictions and ensure physical distancing, because people also want to safely connect with their communities and enjoy some quality of life,” Peck said in an email to OBJ on Tuesday afternoon.
“Outdoor activities such as this will accomplish these goals while generating additional business for the area. It’s also a great start as we head into the warmer weather, work through the recovery process and look forward to better days ahead.”