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By Miriam Raftery

August 24, 2020 (San Diego) – Due to state and county restrictions on gatherings of any size, most theaters, concert halls and other large event sites remained closed to prevent spread of COVID-19.  On Aug. 13, the San Diego Event Coalition held an “empty venue” rally to call not for reopening due to safety concerns, but for aid to assist the industry.  

Nationwide, over 12 million people in the events industry are unemployed, making up 33% of all unemployed people in the U.S. Events and meetings contribute over a trillion dollars to the U.S. economy annually and are expected to lose up to 80% of revenues as long as the pandemic shutdowns continue, according to the coalition

On September 1st , the group is asking event venues here to join a national effort by lighting up buildings in red from 9 p.m. to midnight to highlight their need for help to survive.  They’ve adopted the hashtags #wemakeevents and #redalertrestart. 

But meanwhile, on Native American reservations across our region, sovereign nations not bound by state or local government mandates, some tribes have resumed a variety of events ranging from outdoor concerns to dive-in movies in pools. Some have reopened for hosting charity events and even weddings, attracting customers who might otherwise go elsewhere.   

Because San Diego County does not identify the location of businesses that have had COVID-19 outbreaks, there is no way for media or the public to assess whether these events have caused any spared of the virus, though nearly all tribal business ventures do tout measures such as mandatory masks, social distancing, and enhanced sanitation procedures. 

For many tribes, resuming events is not merely about generating business profits, but also bringing in revenues that may be used to fund vital tribal programs such as health and education.

If you are considering going to an event on tribal land, ask for details on the COVID-19 precautions required at any specific event or venue—and bear in mind that both the state and county advise against gatherings with non-household members at this time.

Here are some of the tribal events occurring in San Diego County:

Barona Resort & Casino:  The Lakeside facility is not listing any events on its website, though its golf course has reopened with modifications. Details on COVID-19 changes at all  Barona facilities are available at https://www.barona.com/casino/cleanest-casino/

Golden Acorn Casino:  The Campo facility has not announced any entertainment events except for gambling related promotions: http://www.goldenacorncasino.com/ 

Harrah’s Rincon:  Harrah’s, located in Valley Center, has cancelled concerts but is holding movie nights under the stars:  https://www.harrahssocal.com/events/movie-under-the-stars/ . The casino and resort website indicates it is requiring masks (except when eating, drinking or smoking), social distancing and other health precautions: https://www.harrahssocal.com/health-sanitation-plan/.   

Jamul Casino: Located in Jamul, our county’s newest casino is touting DJs and live bands in its Jive Lounge, Loft 94 bar/restaurant and on the casino floor: https://www.jamulcasinosd.com/entertainment/. On August 10, Jamul Casino announced the opening of a new open-air rooftop venue (photo, right) “now open for all-season events and accepting reservations for weddings, corporate parties, holiday celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries and more:  https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/jamul-casino-opens-the-rooftop-event-venue-301108750.html.   The Rooftop is requiring the same protocol as the Casino: masks, temperature checks, and social distancing.  As of right now, the Casino is using The Rooftop for very small events for Sweetwater Rewards guests.

Pala Casino Spa and Resort: Located in northeast San Diego county, Pala is holding a wide array of outdoor concerts and events in its outdoor Starlight Theatre: https://www.palacasino.com/entertainment/all-entertainment/. A photo on the ticket website does not appear to include social distancing at the venue.  Pala’s website states only that their facility is following U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines: https://www.palacasino.com/.  

Sycuan Casino and Resort:  Located on reservation land in unincorporated El Cajon, Sycuan is hosting “dive in movies” at its resort swimming pool in August and September, concerts at its Heritage Events Center from September on, and  indoor concerts slated at its Live & Up Close Theatre starting in October: https://www.sycuan.com/events/. Sycuan has implemented many health and safety steps, including restricting the types of masks acceptable, temperature screenings and more in an effort to protect guests:  https://www.sycuan.com/about-us/covid-19-updates/  

Valley View Casino & Hotel has live entertainment at its Main Stage Bar:  https://www.valleyviewcasino.com/casino/entertainment.aspx  They specify types of masks allowed and have social distancing and health screenings: https://www.valleyviewcasino.com/vvch-letter.aspx 

Viejas Casino and Resort:  Located in Alpine, Viejas has not yet resumed concerts or most live events, but is booking private events from meetings to weddings at its indoor and outdoor facilities, according to its website: https://viejas.com/events/   Viejas has also reopened its bowling alley https://viejas.com/bowling-at-viejas/ and outdoor roller rink https://viejas.com/roller-rink/. Viejas has implemented many COVID-19 steps including masking requirements, sanitation, social distancing and barriers in close-contact areas: https://viejas.com/covid19/ 

Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of East County Magazine, has over 35 years of journalism experience. She has won more than 350 journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Press Club, and the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her honors include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism and three James Julian awards for public interest reporting from SPJ’s San Diego chapter. She has received top honors for investigative journalism, multicultural reporting, coverage of immigrant and refugee issues, politics, breaking news and more. Thousands of her articles have appeared in national and regional publications.

East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the Facebook Journalism Project for its COVID-19 Relief Fund grant to support our local news reporting including impacts on vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more: #FacebookJournalismProject and https://www.facebook.com/fbjournalismproject/.

You can donate to support our local journalism efforts during the pandemic at https://www.EastCountyMedia.org/donate.

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