AUSTIN, Texas - The Pecan Street Festival and Bat Fest have each been canceled recently after the City of Austin denied them special event permits. With the Austin City Limits Music Festival only three weeks away, many are wondering if ACL is next.
"The Austin Center for Events understands how important special events are to Austin's culture and our economy," said Brydan Summers, consumer services manager at Austin Center for Events.
Summers with Austin Center for Events, or ACE, says that's why ACE has been actively reviewing its COVID-19 safety guidelines to allow events to come back to Austin.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, ACE did not authorize special events, but back in April, we put a new process in place when conditions improved. and ACE began issuing special event permits," said Summers.
However, newly released ACE guidelines for indoor and outdoor events have left popular Austin festivals like Bat Fest and the Pecan Street Festival canceled because the city denied their special event permit.
"Right now, the current permit requirements for indoor events with over 1000 attendees or outdoor events with over 2500 attendees must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to the event, you must maintain social distancing, and you must have masked zones and outdoor events where social distancing is not possible," said Summers.
The Pecan Street Festival was one of the events unable to follow these updated guidelines. The festival has already had to cancel three times before due to COVID and had to cancel again weeks out of its scheduled date.
"The city that met with us and it told us that more than likely they would have to turn us down if we could not provide vaccination proof or non-COVID testing proof," said Shannon Sedgwick, president of Old Pecan Street Association and Pecan Street Festival. "First of all, we don't sell tickets so there's no place that we could check that and there's no gates because it's wide open on Sixth Street so anyone can walk in."
However, Austin City Limits Festival announced on its social media it will be following those protocols, a leg up that could mean the festival is still on pending any further ACE COVID protocol additions.
"[ACL] could still be canceled if things are as bad as they are right now in the City of Austin and our numbers are still growing and deaths so it's very possible that they could find out at the last minute as well," said Sedgwick.
ACE says public safety is their top priority. They will continue to work closely with Austin Public Health and review its COVID safety requirements as necessary.