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Photo by Julia Reihs/KUT

ACL Fest hasn’t been given the final OK on its permits yet, but the city says that’s normal

Friday, September 10, 2021 by Andrew Weber, KUT

As cases of Covid-19 continue to surge in Austin, there’s been some question of how live events like the Austin City Limits Music Festival, which drew 400,000 people during its last in-person festival, will mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Last week, the city implemented new Covid-related protocols for special events on city land. The city then denied a permit for the long-standing Pecan Street Festival, leading many to wonder if the same would happen to ACL, which is less than a month away.

The city has not yet confirmed ACL’s permit but says that’s normal.

Spokesperson Bryce Bencivengo told KUT these permits involve approval from dozens of departments and that, traditionally, final approval isn’t given until a few weeks before the event.

“It’s not unusual at this point that Austin City Limits hasn’t had their permit approved,” Bencivengo told KUT, adding that ACL’s 2019 permit wasn’t approved until Sept. 26 – eight days before the festival kicked off on Oct. 4.

The city is requiring increased safety requirements for events on city land, like ACL. Event organizers must implement proof-of-vaccination policies for attendees, lay out strategies for social distancing and have “mask zones” for spaces in which distancing isn’t possible.

Still, there’s the question of whether the festival will be canceled, like South by Southwest was as the first wave of the pandemic ramped up. Bencivengo said the city is working to provide clarity soon on whether that would be the case, and urged Austinites and anyone attending the festival to first get vaccinated against Covid-19.

“We’re going to work to give people some certainty in the coming weeks, but right now, we’re still evaluating all events that are happening in the community that require a permit and understanding the impact both on the community and public health and the health care system,” he said. “And we’ll make decisions about each one depending on their ability to put mitigation measures in place.”

ACL is requiring proof of vaccination for its attendees, or proof of a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of attending the festival. On top of that, the festival is offering free one-day passes to people who get vaccinated.

So far, C3 Presents, the organizer of the festival, hasn’t indicated any plans to push off this year’s in-person festival, though some Austinites have called for the festival’s cancellation in light of the surge of Covid-19 cases in Austin.

KUT reached out to C3 for comment, but has not yet heard back.

Photo caption: Crowds ahead of ACL’s main stage back in the pre-pandemic days of 2019. The festival drew 400,000 people to Zilker Park that year over two weekends.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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