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Erie County: New NYS Rules Force Drive-In Events To Cancel, Despite Social Distance Protocols

Two scheduled drive-in shows in Buffalo have been forced to cancel, despite having extreme social distancing measures in place.

Promoter Mike Marshall, owner of MNM Presents, made the announcement as a result of cease and desist from the Health Department, after meeting with them and being notified of new NYS rules for drive-in events.

MNM Presents, the largest promoter of electronic dance shows in Buffalo, had two drive-in shows scheduled at Buffalo Riverworks in August. Both had to be cancelled, a week or more before the events had been scheduled to take place.

Marshall has had his business shut down since mid March, when COVID restrictions prohibited indoor concerts and large gatherings. Since then, he’s had to cancel or postpone 10 shows and stop scheduling any new ones. As a result he’s lost thousands of dollars in revenue.

Fast forward to August, Marshall came up with the idea to try drive-in concerts. “People need to have fun” he said. “We created a safe way to do it”.

Safe is an understatement.

Marshall and his team, as well as Buffalo Riverworks, brainstormed as many ways possible to make these shows fun, still have the vibe, and be safe as possible.

Marshall described his guidelines that essentially would have made the show a safe haven.

  • Guests would purchase tickets by the vehicle, a car or SUV only.
  • Guests would have to arrive in that vehicle, one person per seat belt, wearing a mask as they arrive
  • Each person would receive a temperature check by a registered nurse.
  • They would proceed to their designated parking and hangout spot, about 20×20 feet.
  • Each vehicle and its guest must stay inside their spot, which would be roped off.
  • Guests were not allowed to mingle, see other people, go towards the stage, or leave their spot for any reason unless to use the restroom (which would have an attendant to sanitize constantly)
  • If someone was caught outside with too many people in the car, a temperature upon arrival, not wearing a mask in the bathroom, leaving their area or breaking any other rules, the whole vehicle would be ejected.
  • There would be no concession stands, drink stands etc to prevent mingling and interaction with people outside guests’ groups.

Guests would be interacting only with the people they came with, just as they would do at their house, or dinner table at their favorite diner.

Unfortunately, the health department wasn’t on board and had new guidelines that would essentially make the event impossible, without coming out and saying no.

A post on MNM’s social media announced the cancellation and explained the rules that the health department would have required. “New York has imposed a rule that no one, including you, may exit your vehicle, at ALL during the show unless for a restroom. This means no fresh air, no stretching of legs, no sight lines and a meaningless feeling of confinement.”

The post went on to read “hours after meeting with the Health Dept, cease and desists were sent out to insure these rules would be met.” Essentially, you’d have to be paying to sit in a hot car, and hope you can see around the people in front of you, including your own driver. “Welcome to 2020”.

The post ends by encouraging guests to email state representatives to let them know that people want to be “treated like an adult.”

Marshall expressed his frustration to why he wouldn’t be allowed to do an event that kept people safer than most places they would normally go. “Our show is safer than the beach, a park, a restaurant or anywhere.”

Drive-In movie theaters have been operating throughout the state for several weeks now and Marshall questioned what the difference was. “When I asked our health reps about (The Transit Drive In), they said WE should tell Niagara County.” seemingly implying he should try to turn them in.

“This is what I get for coming to them with a safe event.”

Marshall plans to go back to the drawing board, but knows that his hands are tied tight by the state regulations, that could keep him out of business indefinitely, like many other promoters and concert venues.

Many have been asking for guidelines from the state, as to when or what needs to happen for them to be able to re-open, but so far, have been hung out to dry with no answers.

Many believe the new rules for drive-ins happened as a result of a drive-in event in the Hamptons with the group, Chainsmokers. The event made its rounds on social media showing no social distancing and hundreds of attendees. Those same people question why all shows and promoters are being punished because of one.

We’ve updated the story after following up with the Niagara County Health Department for clarification about drive in movies. Read the update here.

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