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Monday, September 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Daniel Mills: Canceling live music is unfair to performers

By Daniel Mills

I, Daniel Mills, am a full-time, local, working musician. I perform under the moniker Son of Brad, and also own and operate a talent booking agency, Inland Talent LLC, which provides musical entertainment for nearly a dozen restaurants and lounges across Spokane and North Idaho. My agency also provides work for approximately 25 local musicians.

It has come to my attention that Gov. Inslee released a memorandum on July 9, clarifying restaurant and tavern rules under proclamations 20 – 25 and 20 – 25.4. This memorandum states:

· Bar-style seating and live music are here by prohibited in Phase 2 and Phase 3.

My concern with this rule is that it unnecessarily ends paid work for dozens of musicians, individuals who rely on outdoor restaurant patios for most or much of their income each summer.

I say it unnecessarily ends work because it completely disregards the fact that live musical entertainment with single, solo-act performers on outdoor restaurant patios, where restaurants are enforcing all current health guidelines, will in no way increase the spread of COVID-19, more so than allowing that same restaurant to continue to serve food without live music.

If the governor deems a restaurant safe enough to operate because it complies with all regulations, then why doesn’t he deem it safe to host live music at these locations, as long as these restaurants continue to comply with all of the same regulations to the same effect?

As per Inslee’s July 9 memorandum, the Spokane City Council is currently ordering one of my clients, a restaurant called The Osprey Lounge, at The Ruby River Hotel on Division, to immediately end its outdoor patio live music program.

As interpreted by the Council, and being put forth to the restaurant, Inslee’s proclamation will allow the Osprey to keep its outdoor patio operating during Phase two and Phase three, but will under no circumstances allow live music during this time, even with all social distancing and health guidelines being met.

The live music program that is being forcibly shut down in this instance consists of a single nightly entertainer, usually a singer/guitarist, two nights per week.

The musician stands on an outdoor stage, a minimum of 10 feet from the nearest guest’s dining table. The guests are seated at tables, not standing, and the tables are set distanced apart according to current social distancing protocols.

If the musician follows all of the same safety measures that are laid out for the other staff working at the restaurant at this time – for example, wear a face mask while setting up and taking down gear and practice social distancing – where is the increased risk in the musician being allowed to continue working? Why is the musicians’ privilege to work and earn money being taken from them, while the rest of the restaurant staff is being allowed to continue working? Or why is a server, who approaches a guest’s table to take a dinner order, allowed to work, but a musician who sings from a distance has no other choice but to find another job?

Many of those who have lost all of their performance income due to the shutdowns do not qualify for unemployment benefits. They earn a small amount of secondary income from other sources, which puts them barely over the line and disqualifies them from unemployment benefits.

I believe that the restaurant and tavern rules, under proclamations 20 – 25, and 20 – 25.4, or the application of these rules, needs to be changed immediately. I am humbly asking that Mayor Nadine Woodward, on behalf of our local performers, who will suffer even more financial hardships as a result of the governor’s July 9 memorandum, should as city mayor contest the governor’s decision in this matter, and allow music in qualifying locations. If it is beyond the mayor’s authority to do this, and the decision lies solely with the governor, I ask that Woodward please present this letter to Gov. Inslee and ask him to re-evaluate the application of restaurant and tavern rules, under proclamations 20 – 25, and 20 – 25.4, with respect to the facts in this letter.

I thank The Spokesman Review, the editor, Woodward and Inslee for their attention to this urgent matter.

Daniel Mills performs music regionally and teaches guitar at Burt’s Music and Sound in Coeur d’Alene.

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