San Francisco’s Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund is Now Official

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French Cassettes play a surprise "After Hours" Noise Pop show at Cafe du Nord on Friday, Feb. 28. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Update, April 19: Mayor London Breed announced today that San Francisco’s $3 million Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund would begin accepting applications on April 21, and that the deadline to submit them is May 5. The grants will be distributed in amounts of at least $10,000 to shuttered concert halls, clubs and other venues (although the announcement stipulated that the amount may vary depending on the number of applicants), and the fund is accepting donations from the public.

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Even though the Save Our Stages Act passed in Congress late last year, most independent music venues are still hanging on by a thread as they wait for the federal grant money to be distributed. Meanwhile, rents, mortgage payments and bills are stacking up. Some Bay Area venues have closed already, and others’ owners are accruing massive debt.

Fortunately, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has now formalized a way for venues to get support from city government. At their Feb. 9 meeting, the supervisors passed the San Francisco Music and Entertainment Recovery Fund, proposed in December by Supervisor Matt Haney. The new fund, administered through the Office of Small Business, prioritizes funding for venues that meet two or more of these conditions: they are in imminent danger of closing, are at least 15 years old, are an official Legacy Business, have a maximum capacity of 1,000 patrons or fewer and/or are important to a designated Cultural District. $1.5 million from a new, $62 million small business relief program Mayor London Breed created will go to the fund.

The new fund is a start, but so far it doesn’t have the resources that advocacy group the San Francisco Venue Coalition estimates the local live music scene needs to survive until it can operate at full scale. Last year, SFVC created a proposal for $48 million in city funding for independent clubs and concert halls, estimating that the average San Francisco venue’s overhead costs amount to $18,000–35,000 a month, with no revenue coming in.

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Meanwhile, San Francisco’s city budget has been stretched to its limits, but there might be hope for more support from the private sector. Haney told the San Francisco Chronicle that the city plans to set up a way for people to donate, citing the model of Give2SF, which raises money for the arts, homeless services, parks and more. And more funding could be added during the city’s next budget cycle.