After confusion – and upset from local musicians and local music fans – Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health has reiterated that live music is not allowed during Stage 2 of the Provincial Framework for Reopening.
When it was initially announced that the KFL&A region, along with the vast majority of regions in Ontario, would be allowing patios to reopen as part of Phase 2, many people locally voiced excitement about the opportunity this presented for live music. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, musicians have been hit particularly hard by the lack of work the pandemic has posed, and some patios in the region and surrounding regions hosted live music on the weekend after patios reopened on Friday, Jun. 12, 2020. At that time, there was no information available publicly indicating that live music was not allowed provincially.
Ottawa Public Health was the first to address the matter publicly, and has provided guidelines around singing, dancing, and live music since the beginning of Stage 2. That Public Health unit also suggested that restaurants playing recorded music should reduce the volume music is played at as well.
“…loud music may cause diners to lean towards each other and raise their voices or shout. Shouting may increase the distance that potentially infected respiratory droplets could travel beyond 2 metres placing other patrons in the restaurant at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure,” Ottawa Public Health said in their document ‘COVID-19 Guidelines for Reopening your Restaurant.’
That document also discusses how live music performances are allowed to take place as follows:
“Live performances of music must ensure:
- Outdoor only
- No singing, vocalizations, or shouting (conversational volume talking is ok)
- No wind instruments (instruments that involve human breathing)
- Musicians must be at least 2 metres apart from each other and from the audience
- If amplification used, keep volume low so patrons do not have to raise voices or lean towards each other when talking to each other.”
Since then, the Ontario Ministry of Health has issued guidelines prohibiting singing and dancing during Stage 2 by request only. The official Framework for Reopening does not mention singing or dancing. When asked whether or not live music is allowed on patios in KFL&A, local Public Health initially redirected inquiries to the Ministry of Health. According to the Ministry, singing specifically is not allowed due to the heightened risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus.
“Studies on the mechanism of COVID-19 transmission indicate it is spread through droplet transmission which may occur through both normal speech and singing, in addition to more commonly understood routes such as sneezing and coughing. Evidence indicates singing poses a greater risk than normal speech, especially singing loudly,” said David Jensen, a Media Relations Officer for the Ministry of Health.
Similarly, dancing is prohibited as it doesn’t allow for the physical distancing required to help stop the spread of the virus.
“For regions in Stage 2, restaurants, bars, food trucks and other food or drink establishments may open if they comply with several conditions, including configuring their space to ensure physical distancing or at least two metres between patrons seated at different tables,” Jensen said. “As such, given physical distancing requirements, dancing is not permitted.”
Neither of these things addresses the question of live music without singing, however, and, although Kingstonist has asked the Ministry about live music without singing multiple times, no response has been received by time of publication.
When Kingstonist approached KFL&A Public Health again for information on live music on patios, requesting further information and an interview with someone who could speak to the subject, Public Health responded with deferral to Ministry of Health guidelines.
“On a local level, KFL&A Public Health continue to follow the regulations stated in the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act – No dancing or singing may be permitted in the outdoor dining areas,” Jenn Fagan, Communications and Public Relations Specialist for KFL&A Public Health said in an email.
“We receive complaints through our online form and our Public Health Inspectors continue to respond to the complaints.”
Fagan confirmed that both live music and/or singing are not permitted.
In fact, local musician Sean Patterson of the band Oakridge Ave has seen that complaint-driven process in action, even though his band was not playing in an area that was open to the public.
“Hoping that whoever decided to call the Minister of Health and complain over a 4-person isolated live stream feels accomplished in quashing what little chance musicians had at staying active during this pandemic,” Patterson wrote on Facebook on Friday, Jun. 19, 2020. “I hope you enjoy your artless and empty day having ruined it for so many others.”
Adding to the confusion for local musicians and the establishments they would normally perform in, it appears that not all Public Health regions in the area are interpreting the prohibition of singing and dancing during Stage 2 as meaning ‘no live music.’
The ‘Checklist for Food Premises Operating Patios’ published by the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit states the following about live music.
“No dancing or singing may be permitted in the outdoor dining area (patio). instrumental music is allowed in the dining area as long as the musician is at least 2m/6ft away from another person, and people other than the musician do not play the instrument. For singing musicians, they must be 12 ft away from the dining area or behind plexi-glass, and no other people can be in the same area as the musician.”
Kingstonist will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as more information becomes available.