Bipartisan 'Save Our Stages' Senate bill up for vote could provide relief to music venues in Tampa Bay—but it needs your help

Local scenes across the country could get a boost.

click to enlarge Wallows plays The Ritz in Ybor City, Florida on February 19, 2020. - Photos by Ximena Castillo
Photos by Ximena Castillo
Wallows plays The Ritz in Ybor City, Florida on February 19, 2020.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on Wednesday introduced their co-sponsored "Save Our Stages Act" in the U.S. Senate for voting consideration before the legislative body's upcoming August recess.

The bipartisan bill by this surprising pairing would provide $10 million in funding for six months of short-term economic relief to independent music venues around the country. Aid would be provided to venue operators (and staff, by extension) and promoters.

The Save Our Stages Act is endorsed by music industry advocacy groups the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and the National Independent Talent Organization (NITO).

"NIVA has been beating the drum for quite sometime. Sen. Cornyn crafted and introduced the bill and Sen. Klobuchar quickly joined on," Tom DeGeorge, the Precinct Captain for NIVA in Florida and co-owner of Ybor City concert venue Crowbar said. "We are very excited that this is a bipartisan effort and we believe that’s a great sign."

Some of the particulars of Save Our Stages economic aid package to venues include:

  • Establishes a $10 billion grant program for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives
  • Narrowly define independent live venue operators, promoters, and talent representatives to prevent large, international corporations from receiving federal grant funding
  • Directs the Small Business Administrator to make grants to eligible recipients equal to the lesser of either 45% of gross revenue from 2019 or $12 million
  • Allows the Small Business Administrator to issue supplemental grants in the future if funding remains available and applicants can demonstrate continued need
  • Permits recipients to use grants for costs incurred during the COVID pandemic
  • Permits recipients to use grants 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

Music venues were among the very first things to close back in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, and they will be among the last businesses to reopen when and if the country drastically reduces new infections or a vaccine is developed. Just last week, Lollapalooza founder Marc Geiger made the dire prediction that he doesn't even see concerts returning in earnest until 2022.

Polling conducted by NIVA among its nearly 2,000 members painted the equally bleak picture that, if action isn't taken soon, nearly 90 percent of independent concert venues will be forced to close down permanently.

“With no revenue and immense overhead, four months in, it’s already happening. The warning light is flashing red and our only hope is for legislation like Save Our Stages Act or RESTART Act to be passed before Congress goes on August recess," warns Dayna Frank, president of NIVA and CEO of First Avenue Productions. "Otherwise, most businesses in this industry will collapse.

"The introduction of this bill follows months of lobbying by NIVA, scores of prominent musicians, and even corporations like Spotify and YouTube, all touting the economic value of independent venues, which foster thriving music scenes and touring ecosystems around the country.

For Tampa Bay's live music fans, DeGeorge suggests you directly contact Florida's two senators by email or telephone and express your support for the Save Our Stages bill."They need to know the voters really want this bill to pass," says DeGeorge, "and that they should champion it."

This article first appeared on CL's sibling newspaper Orlando Weekly.

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