Durham music hall upsets some with COVID vaccine requirement for concertgoers as live events return

Joel Brown Image
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Despite blowback, Durham music hall holds firm to vaccine requirement
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Despite blowback on social media, Motorco Music Hall is sticking with a plan to require concertgoers to show proof of a COVID vaccination when events return.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Pre-pandemic, live indoor concerts inside Durham's decade-old Motorco Music Hall were standing room only with screaming concertgoers arm-to-arm. Social distance? Not a chance. But the pandemic pulled the plug on Motorco indoor events.

When Governor Roy Cooper lifted restrictions this month, no one was more surprised than the popular music hall.

"We were happy and sad that Cooper changed the rules so quickly because it just made us immediately have to figure things out," saidJosh Wittman, one of the managing partners at Motorco.

One week before the Governor eased COVID rules, Motorco announced its first indoor concert in over a year: August 23 with rock band Bully.

Motorco said the band only agreed to book the date if specific COVID protocols were in place: All concertgoers have to provide proof they're fully-vaccinated, temperature checks at the door and masks will be required. Now, the music hall getting some blowback about it on social media

"If you read the comments at our Facebook and Instagram posts, you'll see some very nasty comments by people that say they're our customer. I'm not sure they ever were," Wittman said.

One user responded on Instagram, "Sick f***! Your WW II tyrannical shows are disgusting, your venue and artists are sick in the head."

Wittman responded to ABC11, "It's frustrating to see comments like that. But you are gonna get the trolls."

"The nice thing about the comments you're reading is that we had plenty of our customers stick up for us," said Wittman.

It's the latest chapter in the red hot culture war over COVID vaccine mandates. It was in full view in early May outside the General Assembly as demonstrators loudly opposed any consideration of vaccine passports in North Carolina

"It's about telling businesses that they don't have the right to discriminate against you if you do not get the shot," said Cabarras County Republican State Rep. Larry Pittman.

And at Raleigh hot dog joint, Alpha Dawgs, this month, the Raleigh Republican Club urged its followers to eat elsewhere after the owner, who told ABC11 that he's lost loved ones to COVID, still requires customers wear masks.

Raleigh restaurant says social post about vaccine cards was about safety, not politics

Back at Motorco, the shows will go on -- as long you bring proof of vaccination.

"We are a private business. We have to make decisions based on what we feel is the best for our employees and our customers," Wittman said.

The music hall says tickets are selling well for its first two indoor shows in August and September, even with the vaccine requirements. Wittman says Motorco ownership will reevaluate the precautions going forward based on customer comfort-level.