Tampa Bay venues could benefit if congress approves $10 billion in emergency grants

The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday amended the Heroes Act, a broad pandemic relief bill, to include provisions from the bipartisan Save Our Stages Act.

click to enlarge Queen Of Ex plays Crowbar’s streaming only ‘Road to Reopen’ concerts in Ybor City, Florida on July 11, 2020. - Michael M. Sinclair
Michael M. Sinclair
Queen Of Ex plays Crowbar’s streaming only ‘Road to Reopen’ concerts in Ybor City, Florida on July 11, 2020.

After weeks of delays, a proposed federal bailout for independent music venues has taken a step forward.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday amended the Heroes Act, a broad pandemic relief bill, to include provisions from the bipartisan Save Our Stages Act.

If passed, the new package would include $10 billion in emergency grants for independent venues, producers and promoters, most of which have been without income during the COVID-19 crisis. Tampa Bay venue owners—acting under the leadership of Crowbar co-founder Tom DeGeorge, who's the Florida captain of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA)—have been among those lobbying for the legislation.

"We hope our elected officials come together on COVID-19 assistance in the coming days, not weeks or even months," said Audrey Fix Schaefer, communications director for NIVA. "Our small, independent businesses, which normally contribute billions of dollars to local economies, are on the precipice of mass collapse if this critical funding doesn’t come through."

Under the proposal, venues could apply for federal dollars to cover rent, mortgages and utilities and other expenses that have continued to mount during the pandemic.

In Tampa, Skipper's Smokehouse, which had been open for 40 years, shut down on last weekend.

In a phone call with Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, ricket Larson, Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Skipper’s, said that the closure is a result of a combination of a lot of different things—the financial impact of the pandemic being one of the most significant.

“COVID was the nail on the coffin,” Larson said.

The Save Our Stages Act was introduced in the Senate by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, in July, but its progress was halted amid partisan gridlock and a congressional recess.

The House version was introduced by U.S. Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, and Roger Williams, R-Texas.

Fix Schaefer said she was "cautiously optimistic" about the prospects of the bill moving forward, adding that every $1 spent on a concert ticket at an independent venue equates to $12 for area restaurants, bars and hotels.

This article was adapted from one that originally appeared in our sibling paper San Antonio Current.

Tampa Bay venues and promoters need you to bug Marco Rubio about saving the live music scene.

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