UPDATE: A rep for the New York State Department of Health has walked back a comment from Governor Andrew Cuomo in which he stated that the promoter of a controversial, non-socially-distanced Chainsmokers concert that was held in the Hamptons in New York over the summer will be fined $20,000 for violating public health law: The rep clarifies that the department “has charged In the Know Experiences, the concert promoter involved in the July concert in Southampton, featuring the band the Chainsmokers, with violating the Public Health Law and is seeking $20,000 in fines for holding a non-essential gathering and failure to enforce mask wearing.”
“The Chainsmokers concert promoter is charged today with violating an Executive Order and Section 16 of the Public Health Law. As I said immediately following reports of this event, it was an egregious violation of the critical public health measures we have had in place since the beginning of this pandemic to protect New Yorkers from COVID-19,” an updated statement from the governor reads. “We will continue to hold people and businesses accountable for their actions and the local governments must enforce the rules or else we will hold them accountable as well.”
Reps for the group and In the Know Experiences did not immediately respond to Variety’s requests for comment.
The new statement notes that on July 25, In the Know Experiences held the “Safe and Sound Concert Series” featuring the Chainsmokers at Nova’s Ark Project in Water Mill. “The Town of Southampton issued the promoter a special event permit for the concert after its review of the promoter’s Special Events Application, which stated numerous measures that ostensibly would be taken to protect against COVID-19. Critically, the promoter’s Special Events Application omitted reference to a designated ‘friends and family’ section where concertgoers could freely congregate and where mask-wearing was not enforced.”
The statement notes that after an investigation by the department, more than 2,150 concertgoers attended the event, exceeding the maximum number allowable per the permit. In addition, “the event was not held in accordance with other safety measures outlined in the permit application and promotional materials, and created conditions that increased the risk of spreading COVID-19 in New York,” it continues.
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “We have worked too hard throughout this pandemic to keep infection rates low utilizing proven public health measures, and we must ensure that they stay in place. If they do not, enforcement is always an option. We will take whatever measures we can to protect the public health of all New Yorkers.”
The governor’s initial statement, posted on social media Wednesday morning, stated that the promoters will be fined; instead the department is seeking the fine. “Following an investigation into the Chainsmokers concert in the Hamptons this summer, the promoters will be fined $20,000 for violating public health law. Further, the Town of Southampton cannot approve permits for group gatherings without State approval,” the governor’s tweet reads.
NEW: Following an investigation into the Chainsmokers concert in the Hamptons this summer, the promoters will be fined $20,000 for violating public health law.
Further, the Town of Southampton cannot approve permits for group gatherings without State approval.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) October 14, 2020
The concert, a charity fundraiser that took place late in July, was held at a 100-acre lot transformed into a drive-in for the concert, and immediately provoked controversy when photos of the crowd, which was close together and mingling, surfaced on social media. New York health commissioner Howard Zucker wrote to Southampton town supervisor Jay Schneiderman saying he was “greatly disturbed” about the concert. “I am at a loss as to how the Town of Southampton could have issued a permit for such an event, how they believed it was legal and not an obvious public health threat,” Zucker wrote in the letter, which was excerpted by BuzzFeed News. Zucker suggested that at some point “it became clear violations were rampant.”
The Chainsmokers had a “Drive-in” concert last night.
No social-distancing during a pandemic. We may be doomed…pic.twitter.com/rreahTaK0p
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) July 27, 2020
Video snippets posted on social media showed concertgoers dancing in close proximity to one another near the stage — albeit not in the shoulder-to-shoulder, packed conditions seen at other concerts general-admission concerts by Chase Rice, Chris Janson and Great White over the summer. The 2,000 attendees at the Hamptons show were asked to remain adjacent to their vehicles in designated parking areas, and concert organizers insist most or all did, although dancers were much more visible at the front of the stage than cars in videos that appeared. Photos and videos from the event show some attendees wearing masks, though they appear to be in the minority.
In response to the backlash, event organizers In The Know Experiences and Invisible Noise released a statement elaborating on what they characterized as proper safety precautions. The statement said, in part. that the show “followed the guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. … Prior to the event, all guests were instructed to self-monitor their temperature daily for two weeks leading up to the event, maintaining a temperature below 99.5° F (37.5° C). …. Upon arrival, individuals within each car had their temperatures taken and were also provided complimentary face masks before driving to their designated 20′ x 20′ spot. Guests were also instructed that they would not be allowed to leave their designed spots for any reason other than to use the restroom facilities.”
The benefit was an elite event, price-wise, with per-car ticket prices starting at $1250, and the super VIP package topping out at $25,000. Proceeds were earmarked for No Kid Hungry, Southampton Fresh Air Home and the Children’s Medical Fund of New York.