Congress on Monday passed a pandemic relief bill that includes $15 billion for independent venues and promotors, providing a vital lifeline to music venues such as DC’s 9:30 Club, Black Cat, DC9, and others.
The comprehensive legislation incorporated the Save Our Stages Act, sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in the Senate, Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Roger Williams (R-TX) in the House and championed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) with 230 bipartisan cosponsors in Congress. The Save Our Stages Act provides financial assistance to independent venues and promoters that have been devastated by the pandemic’s shutdown. The Save Our Stages Act will enable these locally owned businesses to hold on until it is safe to gather, reopen fully, and once again return to serve as economic engines for their communities, says the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA).
Formed in the early days of the pandemic and now with 3,000 members representing every state and DC, NIVA Monday expressed gratitude for this crucial support and also for the accompanying COVID-19 relief to millions of unemployed workers across the country who have been sidelined through no fault of their own by the economic fallout of the shutdowns. The legislation provides critical help to shuttered businesses by providing a grant equal to 45 percent of gross revenue from 2019, with a cap of $10 million per entity. This grant funding ensures recipients can stay afloat until reopening by helping with expenses like payroll and benefits, rent and mortgage, utilities, insurance, personal protective equipment, and other ordinary and necessary business expenses.
“This is the lifeline our industry so desperately needs to emerge from a devastating year,” said Dayna Frank, Owner & CEO, First Avenue Productions and Board President of NIVA. “Without independent venues and promoters across the country working to engage their communities, staff, and artists, our voices would not have been heard — we are thankful for those tireless efforts. Careers came to a standstill overnight, and people continue to face personal hardships, which is why legislation like this and extending Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is essential. Our immense gratitude goes, in particular, to Senator Klobuchar, Senator Cornyn, and Senator Schumer, for securing the future of independent venues and promoters for generations to come.”
Undeterred in its fight for the industry’s survival, NIVA worked with Akin Gump, led by Casey Higgins with collaboration from Ed Pagano, to bring the fight to Congress. “Without Akin Gump’s belief in our cause and advice on how to get this done, we could never have gotten the Save Our Stages Act passed,” said Adam Hartke, owner of The Cotillion and WAVE in Wichita and co-chair of NIVA’s Advocacy Committee. “They fought for us like they were us. The entire industry will forever owe them a debt of gratitude.”
NIVA next plans to work with the Small Business Administration to ensure emergency relief is dispersed as Congress intended and accurate implementation of a grants process in a timely manner.
“This was a true grassroots effort. NIVA members reached out to their fans letting them know of the dire situation: venues having no revenue and enormous overhead potentially leading to their shutting forever. People responded — in an overwhelming fashion. NIVA thanks those across the country who sent 2.1 million emails to their elected officials expressing their support for the Save Our Stages Act. All 535 Congresspeople heard from their constituents through SaveOurStages.com,” NIVA said.