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Blue Grotto owner says at least eight COVID-19 cases connected to Oct. 14 concert at nightclub

David “Pup” Johnston decided to make the public and patrons aware of possible exposure through a post on the Grotto's Facebook page
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The owner of the Blue Grotto Nightclub in downtown Kamloops said he has heard from a number of people who attended a recent show that they have tested positive for COVID-19.

David “Pup” Johnston said he now considering his next step and awaiting information from Interior Health — and hoping the transmission of the virus has stopped.

The show, which featured bands Belvedere, Blacked Out and Let's Go, took place on Thursday, Oct. 14. The cases appear to have emerged despite health guidelines being followed, including checking for proof-of-vaccination at the door, following capacity restrictions, adhering to the mask mandate and having patrons seated at their tables.

As of Oct. 20, Johnston said he figures there have been at least eight COVID-19 cases connected to the event, which had 51 people in attendance, plus 13 band members and five staff working.

Johnston himself had just returned from being tested for COVID-19 when KTW contacted him on Wednesday to inquire about the cases and voluntary disclosure by the nightclub. Other staff working at the club are also being tested.

"I received a call late last night, asking if I'd heard about any cases coming from the Belvedere show,” Johnston said. “"And then I got another call an hour later asking the same thing. And I said, 'Yeah, now I have.’”

Johnston said the building was only occupied for about four hours in total on the night of the show.

After receiving multiple calls on Tuesday night, Johnston said he wasn't sure what to do, but ultimately decided to make the public and patrons aware of possible exposure through a post on the Grotto's Facebook page.

He said he had trouble sleeping that night.

"Honestly, it felt like I was the captain of the Titanic, saying, 'Hey, we didn't hit an iceberg.' I didn't want to be that guy," he said.

Johnston made the post first thing the next morning.

What might help, in this instance, is how close-knit the communities of local fans and fellow punk bands are with one another.

"People are actually reaching out to me ahead of this. It blows me away. The love that these people have for each other in this community is mind-blowing," Johnston said, acknowledging how supportive people have been.

B.C.'s vaccine passport system only requires patrons — not staff or other workers — to be vaccinated for entry to various non-essential places, such as the Blue Grotto. Currently, only one dose is needed to enter venues like the Grotto, but as of Oct. 20, 83.6 per cent of all British Columbians had received two doses.

Johnston, who said he did not know the severity of illnesses among those who tested positive, said he has been encouraging vaccination among his staff and said they understand the risks and benefits involved.

"This is a bigger outbreak than they get in some old folks' homes. We're vulnerable. Most punks are my age now, 55," he said.

Johnston said that despite preparations for such an occurrence, he was still surprised by the cases, which occurred with a capacity that night even lower than the 50 per cent maximum allowed and despite following all health guidelines.

For Johnston, his biggest concern is that people have taken COVID-19 out into the community.

"I just don't want to be ground zero. Opening the doors and making money is secondary to all of that. We weren't making money anyway, with half-capacity," he said.

Johnston said he is waiting to hear back from Interior Health regarding his next move and club operations in the near future.

Interior Health has not declared an outbreak in the Grotto cases. Those at risk will be contacted by health officials via contact tracing. A list of public exposures can be found here.