Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota introduced a relief bill known as “Save Our Stages” on July 22. The bill will support struggling venues during COVID-19 pandemic. If approved, the bill will provide six months of financial support to small independent music venues through the Small Business Administration.
The bill was announced via a press release from Klobuchar. The proposed bill would help keep these venues afloat so they can pay their employees and help preserve the critical economic sector they provide for communities across America. The proposed plan would provide small venues with amounts less than 45% of a business’ operation costs from 2019 or $12 million depending on the venue’s revenue. The bill states estimates of $9 billion in losses if ticket sales can not resume until 2021 in the music industry. “Small live music and entertainment venues have been hard-hit during the coronavirus pandemic, with 90 percent of venue owners, promoters, and bookers reporting they are at risk of closing without additional financial assistance” the press release states. This program would be similar to the previous small Business Administration grants through the Paycheck Protection Plan but focus on small independent venues. The proposed funding could be used by recipients for rent, utilities, mortgage obligations, PPE procurement, payments to contractors, regular maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, operating leases, and capital expenditures related to meeting state, local, or federal social distancing guidelines. The bill is trying to get $10 billion in SBA grants.
The bill comes on the coattails of the “Restart Act” which focused on businesses with high overhead and no revenue during the pandemic which included venues but wasn’t specifically about them. Senators Cornyn and Klobuchar felt the need for a bill that focused on venues in particular. “Minnesota’s concert halls, theatres and places of entertainment, like First Avenue in Minneapolis, where Prince famously performed, have inspired generations with the best of local music, art and education,” Senator Klobuchar said in a statement. She explained that, “This legislation would help ensure that small entertainment venues can continue to operate and serve our communities for generations to come.” Senator Cornyn echoched these feelings saying that, “Texas is home to a number of historic and world-class small entertainment venues, many of which remain shuttered after being the first businesses to close. The culture around Texas dance halls and live music has shaped generations, and this legislation would give them the resources to reopen their doors and continue educating and inspiring Texans beyond the coronavirus pandemic.”
The “Save Our Stages” act is supported by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). NIVA has an action campaign with a prewritten letter to legislators that people can fill out supporting the “Save Our Stages Act.” The prewritten letter explained the need for the bill saying, “Venues are experiencing upwards of 90% revenue loss and will be closed well into 2021 due to safety concerns posed by large gatherings. Without support from Congress, 90% of NIVA’s independent venues across America say they will be forced to close their doors forever.This would also take a toll on our local economy. Independent music venues are economic multipliers, community builders, and beloved institutions.” The letter can be found here.