Proof of vaccination upon entry at the Wheeler next on stage

Aspen City Council supportive of advisory board’s recommendation that all people in opera house show proof of vaccination; negative COVID-19 tests aren’t enough

In order to work, volunteer, perform or attend a performance at the Wheeler Opera House, people will likely be required to show proof of vaccination for COVID-19.

Aspen City Council members during their Monday work session voiced support for the Wheeler advisory board’s recommendation that anyone who enters the opera house wears a mask and is vaccinated.

The Wheeler board had recommended a negative PCR test within 72 hours of entry for those who are not vaccinated, but a majority of council want that condition only for certain medical exemptions.

The requirement will come in the form of a public health order from the city, which council has to approve in two meetings and will likely occur back-to-back Monday and Tuesday next week, according to City Manager Sara Ott.

Pitkin County already has an indoor mask mandate that was approved last week; the city’s will be separate and specific to the Wheeler.

Wheeler advisory board member Amy Mountjoy said the discussion among her citizen volunteer colleagues has been that every performing venue in major markets like New York and Los Angeles are going to great heights to ensure their safety and to be able to perform safely for everyone else.

“So it only makes sense that the people attending are responding in kind and doing everything they can to make sure that each other and the performers and the staff are all definitely safe,” she said.

Ott cautioned council that requiring staff and volunteers to be vaccinated could affect service levels.

“I think that you can assume you’ll start to see some programmatic changes that reflect the workforce that we have available to deliver the services,” she said.

Belly Up Aspen recently changed its policy so that it only allows attendees who can show proof of vaccination, in order to remain open at 100% capacity under Pitkin County’s public health order.

Negative tests are no longer accepted for any attendees at the Belly Up.

Council also discussed how to help another citizen advisory board, Next Gen, which represents Aspenites 18 to 40 years old, stay relevant.

The group has struggled to have enough board members to have a quorum and thus be able to meet under the rules of the city’s charter and open meetings laws.

Council agreed to change the requirement to a minimum of four board members instead of five.

The commission, under the city’s current rules, is comprised of seven members and an alternate, but with only four people currently serving, it’s difficult to meet.

There are three applicants hoping to be selected so they can resurrect the board’s efforts, which began in 2012 when council prioritized having a stronger voice for that demographic.

In the ensuing years, Next Gen worked on issues around affordable housing and child care but as of late have become “rudderless,” as Councilman John Doyle described Monday.

Mayor Torre said he’s had issue with Next Gen in that council is charged with representing all demographics in the city, pointing out there is no advisory board for middle-aged or older Aspenites.

But he didn’t advocate for disbanding the board but instead having council help it find some relevance.

Councilman Ward Hauenstein said he shared Torre’s concern about having an advisory board representing only one demographic, but Next Gen should continue its work, although in a different way.

“I’d like to see perhaps taking on some topic area, or grabbing onto something and running with it like mental health, or child care or therapeutic hallucinogens, something that would be beneficial for the community, really becoming an expert in that area, a go-to for reference,” he said, later adding the idea of pushing forward a living wage for Aspen employees.

Next Gen board chair Leah Fielding said the board has discussed researching areas in the environment, transportation, sustainability and the Entrance to Aspen.

“I think we are in a place where we want to be exploring. We care about those issues as well like everyone else does,” she said. “So in the future those are our goals.”