City reviewing porch concert permitting process after cultural community concern

Updated: Dec. 19, 2020 at 8:09 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Socially distanced and ready to take in some tunes, musicians trade in the stage for a porch to display their talents hoping to garner financial support from their fans.

Meanwhile, those owning and operating empty stages say they wish they had the opportunity to do the same.

“I truly believe the city and state are doing what they’re doing in the interest of public safety to keep the numbers down because they see where the spread comes from, but I don’t think there’s a lot of reasoning behind it,” Howie Kaplan said.

New Orleans COVID-19 guidelines prohibit indoor live music performances, but business owners and others wanting to host these kinds of shows can apply for permits through the city’s website. The permit costs around $100.

Howlin’ Wolf’s Howie Kaplan says these permit costs would already put him in the red if he were to put on a socially distanced show.

“If you put 50 people in a room and charge them 20 bucks you have this permit that permits you to still pay rent. You have to pay staffing you have to do all those things, financially it’s a tough hill to climb,” Kaplan said.

“Front porch concerts didn’t exist pre-Covid, so when we started writing rules that were more aimed at businesses that wanted to bring things back were more organized. It was hard to figure out ways for these more organic performances to come in to play,” Sarah Babcock said.

Sarah Babcock with New Orleans’ health department says navigating this kind of creativity has been challenging within city government. She says hearing the critiques, they are trying to adjust the permitting process and costs while keeping safety measures in mind.

“Just to be honest, we’re moving really fast and so sometimes there are unanticipated outcomes that occur like the fees for front porch concerts which was never our intention, and then we have to get approvals and change the system to stop issuing those. We’ve tried to be responsive as much as possible to our cultural community and make those changes,” Babcock said.

Musicians say permit or not, they just want a better way to support their families.

A resident who hosts porch concerts described the permitting process as clunky and confusing, but say they adhere to social distancing rules to keep everyone safe.

They told us they enjoy hosting these concerts in an effort to boost community morale.

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