With no reopening date in sight and mounting overhead costs from rents, mortgages, electricity, insurance and other operating expenses, California music venues have found themselves in dire straits. If passed, three new pieces of Congressional legislation would offer financial relief during the pandemic.
The Save Our Stages Act (S. 4258) aims to provide six months of financial support to music venues shuttered due to COVID-19. The bipartisan bill, introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and John Cornyn of Texas, has support from the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), an alliance with 2,000 members that includes over 100 Northern California concert halls, production companies and promoters.
The Save Our Stages Act is intended to support small businesses, and offers a grant equal to 45% of a venue’s 2019 operating expenses or $12 million, whichever is the lesser amount. NIVA is currently running a #SaveOurStages campaign that implores music fans to write their representatives in support of the bill.
The act could provide relief for venues that were struggling to stay in the black even before the pandemic in expensive regions like the Bay Area. “All of us independent venues—we’re all hovering around breaking even, if not running at a loss or barely profiting,” Lynn Schwarz of Bottom of the Hill told KQED in April.
Some venues, like Bottom of the Hill, have launched crowdfunding campaigns to support their former employees. Others, such as San Francisco’s The Stud and Oakland’s Spirithaus and Stork Club, decided to cut their losses and move out of their locations with the hope of reopening after California ends its shelter-in-place orders. That would be after the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine or therapeutics, which could be months or years away.