ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With new CDC guidelines, concerts are starting to come back to Florida, but for at least one show, WFTS has learned your COVID-19 vaccination status will determine how much you pay to attend.
“These are all my tickets from over the years,” said Brittney Wigen, showing framed displays containing hundreds of ticket stubs.
Wigen has been a fan of punk rock and has attended shows regularly since she was a teenager. The COVID-19 pandemic put all concerts on hold, but Wigen recently saw an announcement for a show to be held at St. Petersburg VFW Post #39 next month headlined by Teenage Bottlerocket and featuring the bands Make War and Rutterkin.
“I saw the announcement for the concert. And then you go to purchase the tickets; it says that you have to show proof of vaccination, which I do not have,” Wigen said.
Discount tickets $18, full-price tickets $999.99
Tickets cost $18 in advance, or $20 at the door if you have a vaccination certificate, but the price increased by 50 fold if you don’t.
“If I wanted to go to the concert without a vaccination, I would have to pay $999.99,” Wigen said.
Promoter Paul Williams came up with the idea.
“We’re just trying to do a show safely. And they should go out and get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families and their community,” Williams said.
He said he had less than a week to come up with a plan to book the show and thought giving a discount for people who were vaccinated would be a good incentive. Teenage Bottlerocket was at first skeptical of the approach but now fully supports the idea.
“We’re all vaccinated. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated so we can see you in the pit,” said Ray Carlisle, who sings and plays guitar in the band.
“I understand what they’re doing. I think it’s very nice of them, but it’s just not fair,” said Wigen.
Israel is using proof of vaccination, so-called vaccine passports, to determine who can attend concerts. But Williams says he didn’t feel like he could legally ban people without vaccines here.
Vaccine passports not allowed in Florida
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis first signed an executive order and then signed a bill into law earlier this month to ban vaccine passports in Florida.
“Under no circumstances will the state be asking you to show proof of vaccination, and I don’t think private companies should be doing that either,” said Gov. DeSantis. “If you want to go to an event, go to an event. If you don’t, don’t. But to be requiring people to provide all this proof, that’s not how you get society back to normal.”
University of South Florida Health Care Vice President Jay Wolfson says mandating people show medical records raises other concerns.
“It would be discriminatory if a business said show me your personal health information,” Wolfson said.
Williams said he wouldn’t keep anyone out who buys a full-price ticket.
“We’re gonna let them in; we’re not gonna out them,” Williams said. “Nobody’s gonna know that they’re the person that bought the ticket, and they’ll be treated just like everyone else.”
Williams said he has not yet sold any full-price tickets to the show.
“I think they should trust us.”
“I think it’s terrible because not everyone can get the vaccine. I can’t because I had COVID too recently,” Wigen said.
She said she has antibodies that would prevent her from getting COVID or giving it to anyone else. Wigen said she offered to provide a doctor’s note to the promoter, saying she doesn’t pose a risk to anyone else. Williams says he’s not a doctor, so he wouldn’t know how to interpret her medical records. He said he wouldn’t sell her a discount ticket this time, but he said he plans to hold shows later this summer without the different ticket prices.
“She can come to the next show, and I hope she does,” Williams said.
Teenage Bottlerocket band members say Wigen can attend one of their other Florida concerts in Orlando or Jacksonville instead, with no vaccination stipulations. They say there is another option for Wigen.
“Perhaps put together a Go-Fund-Me, and all the other weirdo anti-vaxers can help support you going to Teenage Bottlerocket for a thousand dollars. That’s always an option,” Carlisle said.
“Most people who are avid concert-goers know the risks. There are other risks besides COVID. I think they should trust us a little bit more,” Wigen said.
“I compare it to what we see right now with Dunkin Donuts giving you a free doughnut when you show your vaccine card,” Williams said.
And just like some people don’t like doughnuts, Williams said sweaty punk rock concerts aren’t for everyone.
The show is scheduled for June 26.
Adam Walser at WFTS first reported this story.