To restart live events, provide clear guidelines and liability protections | Commentary
By MATTHEW KASTEL
COVID-19 has made mass gatherings for professional sports, concerts and attractions like Disney World a thing of the past.
With the live event and attraction industry dependent on the mass gatherings of people for financial survival, its return is not without hurdles and uncertainty, both in the short and long term. With an annual impact of more than $35 billion to the U.S. economy, its return is hardly a trivial matter.Promote health. Save lives. Serve the vulnerable. Visit who.int
The good news is its salvation doesn’t depend on taxpayer-funded bailouts and risky loans. What is needed for the live event industry to rise from the ashes are common sense guidelines and liability protection.
What would hasten the return of live events and attractions is a helping hand from federal governmental agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). When the time comes to open the doors to the public again, those who stage large public attractions need to do so in a way that keeps both the general public and their employees safe.
Unfortunately, best practices have become a gray area for live events in the post-COVID-19 world. Leadership from the CDC and the DHS is essential in helping to set standards, as live event operators are struggling to decipher mounds of contradictory and ever-evolving data that change daily.
For the safety of customers and employees alike, a clear path must be laid out on how to proceed in a safe manner. Post-COVID-19 standards need to address at minimum housekeeping, security and food and beverage service
Liability protection for public attractions is not without precedent. Shortly after 9/11, the DHS implemented the SAFETY Act, which helped protect America’s pastimes. Homeland Security set up rigorous safety standards. If a stadium or arena passes all the qualifications, they would get a special designation that would give them a level of legal liability protection during a terrorist attack.
This type of designation lets consumers know proper care is being taken for their safety and also gives the facility hosting the event confidence that they are doing the right thing.
Without this type of protection for COVID-19, many operators will close up shop for good. As the battle for liability protection works its way through Congress, Larry Kudlow, director of the White House Economic Council, hit the nail on its head when he said during a CNBC interview in April, “I think liability reforms and safeguards are going to be a very important part of it. That’s a very important point here — somebody’s got to defend the businesses.”
Live events with mass gatherings of people date back at least to the days of early Greek theater in the sixth century B.C. If we don’t actively work to save live public events and attractions, they could be lost forever.
With the help of clear guidelines and liability protection, live events, as a business, will not only survive, but will thrive once again.
Matthew Kastel is president of the board of directors for the Stadium Managers Association and manages a Major League Baseball stadium.