Netherlands to drop all restrictions on live events
After tireless lobbying from the Netherlands’ live music sector, the Dutch government has finally announced plans to lift all remaining restrictions on live events.
The final restriction to be lifted is pre-admission testing (1G) for indoor locations accommodating more than 500 people where there is no assigned seating (eg nightclubs and festivals).
From Wednesday 23 March, this rule will not apply and there will no longer be a requirement to show a coronavirus entry pass to gain access to any events or venues.
“In recent weeks, coronavirus infection rates have once again increased,” the government said of its decision. “However, the current variant is making people less ill and the number of people being admitted to intensive care is limited”.
“The current variant is making people less ill and the number of people being admitted to intensive care is limited”
Since 25 February, large nightclubs, festivals and events have been permitted to open without limitations. In addition, social distancing, assigned seating, masks and capacity limits were scrapped.
The Netherlands follows in the footsteps of England, France, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Austria and Switzerland in lifting all remaining measures on live music events.
In Germany, most Covid curbs will be axed from Freedom Day – 20 March – although “low-threshold basic protective measures,” such as mask-wearing, will still apply. Italy’s live music sector is still waiting for the green light to restart.
Dutch live sector to reopen by end of February
The Dutch government has announced a three-step plan for reopening which will see nearly all restrictions dropped by the end of February.
On 18 February, when step 2 is initiated, the current curfew of 10 pm for venues and events will be pushed back to 1 am.
It will continue to be mandatory to show the coronavirus entry pass verifying proof of vaccination, recovery or a recent negative Covid test (3G) to enter music venues and other cultural places.
At venues accomodating less than 500 people, assigned seating, social distancing and the requirement to wear a face mask will no longer apply. At venues with more than 500 people, these rules will be in force.
In addition, the recommended period of self-isolation after a positive test result will be shortened to five days.
On 25 February, large nightclubs, festivals and events can open up without limitations
On 25 February, when the third and final step is initiated, opening times will return to normal and large nightclubs, festivals and events can open up without limitations.
Nearly all restrictions regarding 3G, social distancing, assigned seating, masks and capacity limits will be scrapped.
However, at indoor locations accommodating more than 500 people where there is no assigned seating (eg nightclubs and festivals) all attendees must show a negative test result (1G). This does not apply at events where there is a continuous flow of visitors, such as trade fairs and conferences.
On 15 March the government will evaluate the remaining rules including the face mask requirement for public transport, the pre-admission testing requirement (1G) and the advice on working from home.
Since 26 January, booked events have been permitted to resume with a maximum of 1,250 visitors indoors and a maximum of one-third of the capacity in outdoor spaces, using the 3G model.
Venues and events have been subject to a 22:00 curfew. Nightclubs have remained closed and festivals and unplaced events have been prohibited.
Dutch event sector loses summary proceedings
The Dutch event sector has lost the summary proceedings that were brought against the state due to the latest Covid-19 restrictions.
Twenty organisations including Mojo, ID&T, Unmute Us and Apenkooi Events demanded in court that all events and club nights be allowed again without restrictions on capacity and time.
As of 25 September, indoor events are restricted to 75% capacity of the venue and are required to close between 00:00 and 06:00 CET.
The Dutch event sector has continuously argued that the government restrictions do not reflect the three months’ worth of findings from the Fieldlab Evenementen studies.
However, the judge said that the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) has, in fact, factored in the results when giving advice to the outgoing cabinet: “That has led to a decision to gradually relax with the abolition of the one and a half meter measure, but with additional measures for indoor events.
“The reason we are still not allowed to open completely is not substantiated”
“This does not lead to an unjustified distinction with other branches. The necessity of the measures taken for indoor events has been explained by the State and that explanation is not incomprehensible.”
The organisations that went to court say they are deeply disappointed.
MOJO director Ruben Brouwer says: “Over a year and a half ago we were the first to close and now we are at the back of the queue to be able to open fully again despite all our efforts. The cabinet continues to focus on keeping our sector closed even longer and has even asked us not to organise dance parties because they could not legally prohibit this. We are considering steps to be taken, but we must and will continue towards the autumn and we will do everything we can to organise the events for visitors and artists in the best possible and safe way.”
Ritty van Straalen, CEO of the ID&T Group, adds: “We are extremely disappointed. We have been standing still for over 18 months and in that time have demonstrated through various Fieldlabs, together with the government, that we can safely organise events. The reason we are still not allowed to open completely is not substantiated.
“The Fieldlab advice explicitly states that organising events at 100% capacity, both indoor and outdoor, is safe if the guidelines from the research are followed. Our Fieldlab results are successfully used in Belgium to organise events safely, at 100% capacity. It is incomprehensible that we in the Netherlands still have to remain partly closed while the very last step would be that the 1.5 meters would go off. Now we are the very last step.
“We must show solidarity with society, but where is the solidarity towards us?”
Jasper Goossen, on behalf of newly formed campaign group Unmute Us, says: “We are despondent by the wall we keep running into. It is frustrating that the judge apparently cannot allow our investigation results to outweigh arbitrary advice and decisions from the OMT and the cabinet, but we will continue to fight for the preservation of our sector. We recently took to the streets with more than 150,000 people to demonstrate how essential our sector is. Besides the fact that our sector guarantees more than 100,000 jobs, it also provides an essential social outlet for young and old. We must show solidarity with society, but where is the solidarity towards us?”
The Dutch government has attempted to soften the blow of the restrictions by announcing a €15 million fund to compensate promoters and venues for lost revenue from indoor standing shows – on top of its €385m guarantee fund.
Lowlands festival director Eric van Eerdenburg last week told the International Festival Forum (IFF) that the guarantee fund helped to “keep the festival infrastructure alive” and that the industry was looking at implementing a long-term contingency plan for unforeseen circumstances like Covid.
“As an industry, we’re looking at an alliance right now and adding a levy of €1 per ticket to go towards an insurance fund for unforeseen circumstances like Covid,” says van Eerdenburg.
Eerdenburg went on to say that the fans also played a crucial part in keeping the business alive during the Covid-19 pandemic due to a vast majority holding onto tickets.
“The audiences have been our bank,” the Lowlands director said. “A ticket is like a crowdfunding exercise. Even after the second round of cancellations we said we’d pay everyone back, and the audience didn’t want it. We should be grateful to our audiences because without them everyone would have gone bust.”
Dutch live industry furious about indoor capacity limit
Key figures from the Netherlands’ live sector say the new 75%-capacity limit for indoor standing events is “unsubstantiated, arbitrary and extremely harmful”.
The measure was announced yesterday (14 September) by the Dutch government as part of a wider rollback of restrictions, planned for 25 September.
The live industry, which recently galvanised more than 150,000 residents to protest restrictions on live entertainment, has hit back at the government for delaying a full reopening.
“As a sector, we have really done everything we can to influence decision-making and provide substantiation to be fully open. But imaging apparently outweighs facts,” says Jolanda Jansen, spokesperson on behalf of the Alliance of Event Builders.
Riemer Rijpkema, spokesperson on behalf of the EventPlatform adds: “We are surprised and disappointed about the choices made by the cabinet. From all the studies of the Fieldlab Events programme and now also from the countless examples from the countries around us, it is clear that events can open safely at full capacity. The 75% limit is unsubstantiated, arbitrary and extremely harmful.”
Indoor events, clubs and venues will also be required to close between 00:00 and 06:00 CET.
The Dutch government today (15 September) has attempted to soften the blow by announcing a €15 million fund to compensate promoters and venues for lost revenue from indoor standing shows.
Ruben Brouwer, director at Mojo, calls the compensation “a blanket for the bleeding”
However, Ruben Brouwer, director at Mojo, calls the compensation “a blanket for the bleeding”.
“Why is 75% good and safe, and 100% not? They don’t explain that. Then you have a bag of money here to make up for the shortages. I think every organiser has to decide what to do next: am I going to organise it or should I cancel it? This is too little, too late.”
Also from 25 September, social distancing will be completely abolished and capacity limits will not apply to outdoor events.
However, the corona pass will be a condition of entry for everyone aged 13 and over who wants to visit an event, festival, theatre, cinema or catering facility.
Attendees at multi-day events will be required to show their corona pass every 24 hours.
The news comes too late for many major festivals such as Lowlands, Mysteryland, DGTL, Down the Rabbit Hole, Awakenings and Paaspop, which were called off earlier this year.
Amsterdam Music Festival, the Netherlands’ largest indoor music festival, was cancelled yesterday (15 September).
Dutch gov to ease restrictions as 150,000 protest
Multi-day events and festivals in the Netherlands will likely be able to take place from 25 September under certain conditions.
According to nu.ul, the Dutch government is deciding on the conditions today, ahead of a press conference tomorrow (14 September) evening.
The conditions, which will be based on findings from Fieldlab Evenementen, will likely include a 75% capacity limit.
The cabinet is also considering how Covid certification and testing could aid the sector’s reopening.
“The culture sector is getting better news than has been leaked”
Culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven provided a glimmer of hope during her appearance on the Good Morning Netherlands programme this morning, saying: “The culture sector is getting better news than has been leaked so far. I am hopeful that things will go in the right direction tomorrow, also for the events.”
The news comes after an estimated 150,000 people across ten cities took part in the second Unmute Us protest on Saturday (11 September) to demand the immediate restart of major events.
Saturday’s march was the largest-ever protest in the Netherlands, more than doubling the attendance of the first demonstration on 21 August which drew 70,000.
“This second flawlessly organised demonstration proves once again how strong our industry is in this area”
More than 4,000 organisations joined the movement, including festivals Lowlands, Mysteryland, DGTL, Down the Rabbit Hole, Awakenings and Paaspop – all of which have been cancelled this year due to restrictions.
Ruben Brouwer, director at Mojo, which promotes Down the Rabbit Hole, Lowlands and Paaspop among others, says: “Our industry consists of professionals who can organise large-scale public events well, neatly and safely.
“This second flawlessly organised demonstration proves once again how strong our industry is in this area. The event industry has proven time and again that it can organise events safely. So there can be no other cabinet decision than full opening on 14 September.”
The protest comes after the Dutch government extended the ban on large-scale events until at least 19 September amid fears over the spread of the highly infectious delta variant.
4,000+ organisers register for second ‘Unmute Us’ march
Dutch campaign group Unmute Us has already enlisted the support of 4,000 organisers for its second protest against the government’s restrictions on live events.
The first march took place on 21 August across six Dutch cities with around 2,000 event organisers and 70,000 people in what was the largest demonstration in the Netherlands since 2004.
Recently, the campaign group threatened the government with an even larger demonstration if its questions are left unanswered, since registering twice the amount of organisers than the original march as well as six new cities.
The group met with ministers yesterday evening (2 September) to discuss their eight key questions to the ‘arbitrary, incomprehensible and unjust’ event restrictions but did not come away with any resolutions.
“It is still inexplicable that in countries around us, measures from Fieldlab Events are being used but our sector is shut”
“The ministers have listened to the arguments and indicated that they will take them into account in their decision-making towards the next press conference on 14 September. That’s great, but no commitment and no reason to cancel Unmute Us,” says Jasper Goossen, co-initiator and spokesperson for Unmute Us.
“We detect an enormous willingness to take action, not only among the organisers but also among the public. And we want to reinforce our story and our arguments by taking to the streets en masse. Because it is still inexplicable that in countries around us, measures from Fieldlab Events are being used but that our sector is virtually shut down here.”
Unmute Us will hold the second march on 11 September at 2 pm CEST across eleven cities.
Leiden, Maastricht, Enschede, The Hague and Tilburg have joined the second protest march as new cities, while Groningen, Eindhoven, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam are once again taking part. More cities are expected to be announced in the coming period.
The campaign has already drawn support from leading organisers such as Ziggo Dome, Awakenings, Down The Rabbit Hole, DGTL, A State of Trance Festival, Amsterdam Open Air, Best Kept Secret, Defqon, Dekmantel Festival, Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop. More information can be found on the Unmute Us website.
‘Unmute Us’ threatens Dutch gov with larger protest
Unmute Us, the Dutch event industry campaign group behind Saturday’s mass protest march, has threatened the government with an even larger demonstration if its questions are left unanswered.
The march, which involved around 2,000 event organisers including Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop, saw 70,000 people protest the ‘arbitrary, incomprehensible and unjust’ event restrictions in what was the largest demonstration in the Netherlands since 2004.
Now, the campaign group is threatening to announce “new and larger” demonstrations if the government doesn’t answer the eight questions presented in an open letter.
A number of the eight questions refer to findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands that show the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.
These pilots were organised by Fieldlab – an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies.
The group asks why the government is ignoring the Fieldlab results while neighbouring country Belgium (which reportedly has the same percentage of vaccinated and infected) is using the report as a basis to organise large festivals.
“Do you realise that with these measures you are ruining the international leading position of the Dutch event industry?”
“What is suddenly wrong with the Fieldlab results while you, through [deputy prime minister] Hugo De Jonge, fully embraced them during the press conference on 28 May?” the group asks.
The letter also asks why are festivals potentially only allowed to open from 20 September, a week before the end of the festival season.
“What arguments do you have for choosing this specific date and not 1 September, the date on which we wish to open?” the group questions. “Do you realise that with these measures you are ruining the international leading position of the Dutch event industry?”
The letter also highlights issues around the government’s coronavirus support for the sector (which is due to end soon), the perceived betrayal of young people (most of whom got vaccinated in order to go to an event, according to the group) and the cabinet’s inconsistent response to communicable diseases.
The group has given the cabinet until next weekend to break recess and answer the eight questions before it takes further action.
“As you have noticed, we are able to mobilise large-scale protests, which, despite their size, remain positive and peaceful. But don’t confuse our peaceableness with complacency. Our patience has run out,” the letter concludes.
350+ Dutch fests join protest: “We will not be silenced”
More than 350 organisations from the Dutch event industry are backing a protest march against the government’s ‘arbitrary’ restrictions which have effectively wiped out the festival season.
Last Friday (13 August), the cabinet announced that the current restrictions preventing multi-day festivals with overnight stays will remain in force until 19 September – despite the promise they could take place again when everyone has been offered the vaccine.
The protest, dubbed ‘Unmute Us‘, has drawn support from some of the Netherlands’ biggest and best-known festivals such as DGTL, A State of Trance Festival, Amsterdam Open Air, Awakenings, Best Kept Secret, Defqon, Dekmantel Festival, Down The Rabbit Hole, Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop.
While many of the aforementioned festivals have been cancelled as a result of government restrictions, other large events outside of the live music industry have been permitted to take place with hundreds of thousands of attendees.
“Elsewhere in society there is room for full football stadiums and overcrowded fairgrounds, but safely organised events are not given any space. And that has been the case since the start of the pandemic, more than a year and a half ago,” reads a statement on the ‘Unmute Us’ website.
“It is measured with two measures, with the message that Formula 1 in Zandvoort (operating at two-thirds of its normal capacity, with 105,000 visitors per day) can continue as an exception for the time being. It shows a total undermining and misjudgment of everyone who cares about culture and nightlife.”
“The studies and results are a painful reminder that at this point not corona, but politics is the cause of a festival-free summer”
The organisations involved point out that it was the government itself, along with Fieldlab, that conducted months of scientific research and pilot events to determine whether festivals could be organised safely.
It was ultimately revealed that, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, the risk of Covid-19 infection at concerts and festivals is about the same as being at home.
“The studies and results are a painful reminder that at this point not corona, but politics is the cause of a festival-free summer and uncertain future,” the ‘Unmute Us’ manifesto continues.
As well as event organisers, it is hoped that the campaign will galvanise young festivalgoers who have ‘been delivered empty promises by the government and kept on mute’.
“With ‘Unmute Us’ we make a fist. We are sending out a clear signal to The Hague: it can no longer be done like this, we will not be silenced. The sector asks for a clear plan for the future, with measurable agreements, but also for recognition of the emotional state of the many visitors and makers who do not feel heard. We want to be able to meet again, laugh and dance again. Above all, we want to be able to look ahead again.”
The ‘Unmute Us’ protest march will take place on Saturday 21 August in various Dutch cities.
ID&T drops lawsuit against Dutch government
ID&T says it sees no legal grounds to advance with the preliminary injunction proceedings against the Dutch government for its restrictions on live music events.
Earlier this week, the government announced that only small, one-day festivals will be permitted to take place in the Netherlands this summer due to the number of Covid-19 infections and hospital admissions.
In response, the lawyer representing ID&T and more than 40 co-claimants from the live industry contacted the state lawyer to request the Outbreak Management Team’s (OMT) advice and the substantiation of the decision.
After deliberation between all parties, ID&T says it has become clear that the current summary proceedings cannot be continued.
Rosanne Janmaat, COO of the ID&T group says: “We are extremely disappointed in the outcome of the decision. In our opinion, Fieldlab Events has shown that it is possible to organise events in a safe and responsible way, but the cabinet has decided otherwise. Despite this, our lawyers have indicated that, in view of the OMT advice on which the cabinet’s decisions are substantiated this time, there is little chance of overturning the decision by means of summary proceedings.”
“We assume that the cabinet will soon take a structural decision and that we will be able to fully open again in September”
On 13 August, the current decision on live music events will be reconsidered by the cabinet.
“We assume that the cabinet will soon take a fundamental and structural decision and that we will be able to fully open again in September,” continues Janmaat.
“After all, it has always been communicated that when everyone who wants to has been able to vaccinate, that is the way out. If the government lets us dangle again and does not offer a sustainable future perspective, we will prepare possible legal steps and perhaps even call on our entire supporters of fans, suppliers, artists, etc. to mobilise and make themselves heard.”
The Dutch promoter – known for events such as Mysteryland, Sensation, Milkshake and Decibel Outdoor – announced the summary proceedings in early July after the government reimposed Covid restrictions weeks after they were lifted.
ID&T was then joined by more than 40 event organisations including Event Warehouse/Paaspop, DGTL and F1 Dutch Grand Prix Zandvoort.
Dutch festival organisers dealt another big blow
Only small, one-day festivals will be permitted to take place in the Netherlands this summer, the Dutch government has announced.
From 14 August, events with a maximum of 750 attendees can take place provided they meet a series of restrictions.
Attendees must be fully vaccinated, recovered from infection within the past six months, or present a negative test from Testing for Access. Visitors are also asked to take a test five days after the event. The events are not allowed closed festival tents.
Multi-day festivals with overnight stays are not allowed until at least 1 September, after the government last week extended the ban.
Events that cannot meet the aforementioned restrictions will not be covered by the government’s guarantee fund.
In addition to the measures for the event sector, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte also announced that those who get the Janssen jab will not be considered fully vaccinated until four weeks after, rather than two.
“[The government’s decision is] a bitter pill for the industry that has been closed for so long”
The Alliance of Event Builders (Alliantie van Evenementenbouwers) has reacted to the news: “Unfortunately, we conclude that the government is once again imposing a major restriction on the events today. As a result, the event industry is again faced with serious disappointment.
“After the multi-day festivals with camping last week, many one-day festivals and multi-day festivals without camping are now also deleted from the summer calendar. A hard decision and of course another big blow, a very sad observation and bitter pill for the industry that has been closed for so long.
“We will soon resume talks [with the government] for the period after 1 September. With the further increase in vaccination coverage and the insights from the Fieldlab Events studies, the Alliance is committed to a responsible, full opening of the planned events.”
Initially, the government was due to give a decision on one-day events without overnight stays on 13 August but the date was brought forward at the request of the events sector.
It’s like that the summary proceedings that promoter ID&T filed against the government also played a role in bringing the decision forward.
The event organiser – which has been forced to cancel events including Mysteryland – and 44 industry peers have filed a lawsuit against the government because they believed a decision on 13 August would be too late. The preliminary relief proceedings have been temporarily adjourned pending today’s decision.
The lawyer representing ID&T and co-claimants has contacted the state lawyer to request the Outbreak Management Team’s advice and the substantiation of the decision. ID&T will consider these documents and decide within two days whether the summary proceedings will be continued.