A dull buzz resonates through the walls of the Regina Cultural Exchange, created by a work crew that's busy sandblasting the dance floor, preparing the club for an upcoming slate of shows in September.
Other than renovations, the popular music venue has been quiet since March 2020. Saskatchewan artist Andy Shauf was the last act to play the stage before the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to live music in Regina and across the world.
The newly polished dance floor won't be the only new thing concert-goers can expect, though. The venue's management team has decided to implement a vaccine policy for upcoming shows.
Attendees will be required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of a show. In order to prove they're vaccinated, patrons can bring a printed copy or screen capture of their vaccination record, which can be found on MySaskHealthRecord.
"We started talking about this a few weeks ago as a staff and the board of directors, and we just decided, you know, this was the best way to move forward, the way to keep our patrons and our staff and our artists as safe as we could be and still open," said John Kennedy, executive director of the Saskatchewan Cultural Exchange.
Kennedy said he and his colleagues also consulted artists, agents and venues around Canada, including Amigos Cantina in Saskatoon, which implemented a vaccine policy earlier this month.
"A lot of the touring artists are already talking about COVID mandates and what that might mean for them," Kennedy said.
"Logistically they're planning concerts or tours right across the country and they need to have some clarity as to how they're going to be greeted at various venues in different provinces. So I think it's a really positive thing."
"We're just so looking forward to having our doors open and having patrons back and providing ... these cultural opportunities for everybody in the province. - John Kennedy, Executive Director, Saskatchewan Cultural Exchange
On Thursday, the day before The Exchange announced its vaccine policy, City and Colour, who is scheduled to play TCU Place in Saskatoon on Nov. 27 and the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina on Nov. 28, announced his concerts will also require patrons to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of a show.
A news release from the Conexus Arts Centre said the vaccine mandate was requested by the artist and won't be in effect for other shows at the concert hall, unless otherwise stated.
Back at the Cultural Exchange, Kennedy said he thinks other venues will start to follow suit and implement vaccine policies if they haven't yet. And, coupled with his desire to keep concert-goers safe, Kennedy said he's excited to hear live music ringing through the venue again for the first time in 18 months.
"We're just so looking forward to having our doors open and having patrons back and providing, you know, these cultural opportunities for everybody in the province. And yeah, I can't wait to get going again."