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Six Months Into Pandemic, Live Events Industry Says It’s Still Struggling Badly

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Dozens of workers from the live events industry gathered and marched late Tuesday night to draw attention to the fact they are largely still not working six months into the pandemic.

“Salt Lake this month would normally have about 8,000 people working events,” said Peter O’Doherty, president of the Utah Live Events Industry Association. “There’s probably somewhere in the region of 200 – 300 working them at the moment. The rest are out of work.”

O’Doherty said industry groups in September are lighting up buildings in red to remind the public how dire the situation is in the live entertainment events industry.

“The live events industry in some areas won’t come back until there is a vaccine, and even then it’s going to be slow for people to accept the new way and in the meantime we’re having to find other ways of working,” O’Doherty said. “Major concerts, major tours, world tours, world sporting events, gatherings of 100,000 people are probably not going to happen in the next six – nine months and we need to be aware of that.”

O’Doherty said his group, which was formed after the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to share resources and provide mutual support while offering a unified voice on industry issues.

“We’ve had a campaign looking for our four main asks, which are rent, staff, working capital and promotion grants to be built in to allow us work,” O’Doherty said.

Peter Marley, representative of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees said “the bottom was just jerked out” for workers across the country.

“Virtually overnight 140,000 people were thrown out of work,” Marley said. “Not necessarily here in Salt Lake City, but like down in L.A.—(you) see people that are used to making six-figures all of a sudden in food bank lines, and it terrified a lot of people. It’s just been devastating.”

Marley said he believed the industry would be one of the last to come back and it impacts people well outside of New York and Los Angeles. He said it’s also concerning to the industry that if many of its highly-specialized workers move on, they may not ever come back.

“We’d like to see some help from Washington because I think they’ve got the biggest pockets for that stuff,” Marley said. “I don’t think any of the states on their own can do this.”

After marching, the group held a rally outside of Abravanel Hall.

Reed Fanning said many local workers don’t know when the struggles will end.

“It feels like everybody else is back to work and we don’t have a return-to-work date,” Fanning said. “We’re kind of left in the lurch.”

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