Houston Venue Refutes Jason Isbell’s Claim It Refused Covid Policy

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s show scheduled for Wednesday, August 11th at the Cynthia Woods Mitchel Pavilion in Houston has been canceled due to the venue being unable to implement Isbell’s recently-adopted policy of not playing venues unless attendees show either proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID test.

However, after the venue released a statement announcing the cancellation and saying they were unable to comply with Jason Isbell’s requirements on such short notice, Isbell rebutted by saying the venue’s statement was “false,” and they “flat-out refused” to implement his policy.

The pavilion’s original statement read in part, “The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion fully supports and commends Jason Isbell and his team for their commitment to the health of their fans, crew, band, and venue staff. We are all on the same page here and we agree with what Jason Isbell would like to implement, but there is a timing issue. To implement a major change in policy such as what is requested will take more time than we have.”

This statement resulted in Jason Isbell lashing out at the venue. “The pavilion statement is false,” Isbell said in a tweet. “Live Nation, the promoter, was on board but the venue owner flat-out refused to even attempt to implement the policy.”

By quote tweeting his response, Jason Isbell’s fans then began lashing out at the venue.

But according to multiple sources at the non-profit Woodlands Center that operates the Cynthia Woods Mitchel Pavilion, this characterization by Jason Isbell they “flat-out refused” to implement his policy is untrue. The venue did attempt to implement Isbell’s policies after only being alerted to them 48 hours before the show, also attempted other solutions, and also offered to postpone the show instead of cancel it until Isbell’s policy could be enacted.

“We were alerted on Monday (8-9) that this would be a request for our show that was supposed to be today (Wednesday), and we take these things very seriously,” Cameron Klepac, the Director of Marketing and Education for the Woodlands Center tells Saving Country Music. “We don’t want to just implement something and not do it properly. So there are a lot of logistics that go into that. We did offer to postpone the show until when we could implement this. And then we gave a variety of options to have the show today safely. The show was going to be at about 10% capacity. We can seat 16,500 folks at our venue, and the show had sold about 1,700 tickets. We offered to open up our lawn. We are an open air, outdoor venue. We tried to give some options there, but our options were denied.”

Cameron Klepac emphasized that there was no disagreement about Jason Isbell’s requests. “Again, we find what he’s doing very important, and we are on the same page with it. But we just needed some time to implement it, and it was time we didn’t have.”

As some fans who made travel plans and other arrangements to attend the performance have pointed out, Isbell made it known late last week that he would be implementing his vaccine or negative test policy. But according to the venue, that information was not relayed to them by LiveNation until Monday.

Along with the short window to implement Jason Isbell’s requirements, Cameron Klepac says the venue is also dealing with staffing issues similar to many venues, restaurants, and other places of business at the moment.

“We would hold our staff to the same standard,” Klepac says. “The logistics of that, of either requiring vaccination or a negative test, that takes some logistics. But there’s other parts of it too. We have a 13-acre property that we have to control that is different from the Austin facility. Given the opportunity to postpone the show, we could have done that. That was denied. We’re already experiencing a shortage on staff. These are also part-time, seasonal jobs. So you start putting restrictions on things, and you lose people that way.”

The Cynthia Woods Mitchel Pavilion is not the only venue that’s had issues implementing Isbell’s policy on short notice. Jason Isbell’s show at the outdoor, Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth on August 13th has been moved to the indoor Billy Bob’s Texas. Isbell’s show at Cain’s Ballroom on August 12th is still moving forward as scheduled, with the vaccine requirement in place.

“The Woodlands Center, we’re a non-profit organization,” Cameron Klepac explains. “We actually exist to make the arts accessible to our community. For these shows, we partner with LiveNation to produce these large shows that help pay for our non-profit mission. We offer educational outreach through performing arts shows for the community.”

The Woodland’s Center also supplied Saving Country Music with a statement from Jerry MacDonald, President & CEO for The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion fully supports and commends Jason Isbell and his team for their commitment to the health of their fans, crew, band and venue staff. We are all on the same page here and we agree with what Jason Isbell would like to implement, but there is a timing issue. We got the request for the change on Monday. To implement a major change in policy such as what was requested would take more than 2 days to properly implement.

We would hold our staff to the same standard as our guests and there needs to be time to address this logistically. We are currently following all CDC guidelines in operating The Pavilion. The venue is an outdoor, open-air facility. The Isbell show would have been at about 10% capacity with the ability to socially distance.

The Pavilion gave Mr. Isbell and his team several options to produce a safe event at the venue and even offered to postpone the show to a date when the protocols could be implemented. All options were denied. 

The Pavilion has always – and will always – view the health and safety of those at our venue at the highest priority. We will continue to look to our local and national health officials for the best guidance as we continue to evolve our policies and procedures to celebrate our return back to live.

Saving Country Music also reached out to the publicist of Jason Isbell for a further statement or clarification of why he believes the venue “flat-out refused” to implement his policy, but the request was not returned by the time of this post. If a statement or further information is made available, it will be updated here.

UPDATE 3:47 p.m. CDT: Representatives for Jason Isbell have responded, “Our agent contacted Live Nation in Houston on July 31st with our new protocols.”

However, Live Nation is not the venue, it is the promoter. So this does not verify that the venue knew of the new protocols before Monday (8-9). If anything, it verifies the venue was never contacted directly about the new policy.

Live Nation’s statement does not address the issue directly at all, and only says they support Isbell’s decision. The company says, “We are fully supportive of Jason Isbell’s decision to require fans to provide proof a negative COVID-19 test or full vaccination for entry to his shows. We also encourage everyone who can to get vaccinated as that is the best way for us all to take care of each other and get back to doing what we love.”

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