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Cactus Club Requires Proof Of Vaccination For All Performers & Attendees Of Shows

Cactus Club
Courtesy of the Cactus Club
Starting on August 9, if you are performing or attending an event at the Cactus Club in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood, you must show proof of your COVID-19 vaccination.

If you go to the Cactus Club in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood to see a live show, plan on bringing proof of your COVID-19 vaccination.

The new policy was implemented on August 9, and it applies to all performing artists and attendees of events at the club. Cactus Club is also asking that guests be masked inside when not actively drinking, which is according to CDC guidelines.

While larger organizations and venues around Milwaukee such as the Pabst Theater Group and Summerfest have taken the step to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to attend one of their events, the Cactus Club is one of the first venues in the area to implement a strictly vaccination-only policy.

READ: Pabst Theater Group CEO On Requiring Proof Of Vaccination, Negative Test To Attend Shows

Cactus Club owner and operator Kelsey Kaufmann says that the policy is meant to serve as a harm reduction measure. "As a small space whose function is to bring people together and whose mission is to create a safe, welcoming environment for the communities we serve and the communities we're part of, it was like a really tricky time to kind of assess what makes the most sense. And for us, that looked like proof of vaccination," she says.

Monitoring the coronavirus has been essential for operating the business and with infection rates escalating across the country, Kaufmann felt that having a negative covid test within 72 hours of an event wouldn't make it any safer for those who are unvaccinated and are more susceptible to harsher symptoms of the virus if contracted.

"I don't want to be an environment that fosters that or makes that an option, if you will. Obviously it's contagious with folks whether you're vaccinated or not, but the symptoms are, I guess ,what we're most concerned with in that way," she explains.

Kaufmann notes that she looked to other venues across the country with vaccination-only policies. And while she doesn't think her model is the best or only model to follow, Kaufmann says, "businesses need to do what makes sense for them and for us this seemed like the logical step forward."

If you're going to the Cactus Club on a day where there's no event, you will not be required to show proof of vaccination, she says. For events, Kaufmann says bringing your vaccination card — a photocopy or a picture of it on your phone will also be accepted to enter.

Andy Kosanke is the guitarist for the band Paper Hollandwho will be performing at the Cactus Club this weekend — the group's first show in about 18 months.

"[The vaccination policy] was one of the reasons why we wanted our first shows post-lockdown to be at Cactus Club," says Kosanke. "We're glad that it's in place. We didn't want to play any shows until we felt that we would be comfortable attending shows."

"We don't want our songs that are about love and loss and all these things to lead to someone dying, it's just not worth it. So we passed on a surprising amount of show offers during lockdown, but we definitely don't have any regrets about that," he adds.

Paper Holland continues to be very selective in what they take on for performances, according to Kosanke. Most of their upcoming events are outdoors, and they're intentionally taking on light workloads for the rest of the year.

"Everyone is kind of scaling back and it's unfortunate that I'm happy to hear it, but I'm happy to hear it," he says. "Obviously I want to go out and see all my friends and see them play their music and have them come out and see us, but it's still too much right now."

Kaufmann says Cactus Club assesses business operations and events week-by-week with the escalation of COVID-19 and the delta variant. It can be confusing, she says, balancing that with programming events so that others can work while keeping public health at top of mind.

"We're kind of in between both sides of it just trying to absorb what we can and respond accordingly. ... It's definitely not clear at this point," says Kaufmann.

Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
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