The House of Representatives on Thursday passed the revised $2.2 trillion “Heroes Act” coronavirus stimulus package, which includes provisions of the $10 billion bipartisan “Save Our Stages” Act designed to provide financial assistance to independent music and live-entertainment venues across the U.S. However, the Republican-controlled Senate appears unlikely to vote on the latest version unless an agreement is reached between Democrats and the White House.
Below, Justin Brannan, New York City Council Member, District 43, and Ariel Palitz, Senior Executive Director, NYC Office of Nightlife, a division at The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, urge the Senate to pass “Save Our Stages.” Head here to find out more you can do to support your local music venue and others across the country.
Our greatest comfort as human beings is so often found in public, in the company of others—grabbing a drink with friends, catching some live music, or letting go on the dance floor. For New York City residents, bars, dance clubs, and music venues are homes away from home, celebrations of creativity, and safe harbors of diversity. These venues are essential to the social and economic health and vibrance of our city.
As public servants who began our careers working in the kinds of venues that are now in danger of disappearing completely, we urge Congress to pass the Save Our Stages Act. We fear that without federal support we are going to lose the independent venues that are the heart and soul of our city and the backbone of our nightlife economy.
The sobering reality, and global dilemma, is that live music, dance, and performance venues are sustained by gathering. So, while most industries have been afforded lifelines to gradually re-open, these venues have been closed since March, with no opening date in sight.
According to the National Independent Venue Association, which represents almost 2,000 music and performance venues across the country, 90% of independent venues may be forced to close permanently without support from Washington.
As a City Councilman and the Senior Executive Director of New York City’s Office of Nightlife, we know what this means. Live venues are the places where the energy and culture and creativity that define New York City radiates, and they are the livelihood for 200,000 of our fellow New Yorkers.
As the former East Village club owner and a founding member of two New York City hardcore punk bands, we know the human cost. We’ve watched as fear and uncertainty have gripped the DJs and musicians, lighting and sound engineers, security, bar staff, and venue operators, who make this part of our economy function. We know the blood, sweat, and tears that go into running a venue, and we know the people who run venues are fighting for survival as we speak.
This bi-partisan Save Our Stages bill, introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, would provide a total of $10 billion in grants, of up to $12 million each, to independent venue operators, promoters, and others in the live music and entertainment industry. This money would help them cover payroll, rent, utilities, and personal protective equipment.
The bill also has the strong support of many of our elected officials, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mayor Bill de Blasio. With the next federal stimulus likely to exceed a trillion dollars in aid to individuals and businesses, $10 billion to Save Our Stages would be a comparatively modest but necessary investment, allowing independent venues in New York and throughout the entire country to hunker down, hibernate, and rise again when the coast is clear.
We’ve been inspired by the myriad ways independent venues and artists have found to adapt and adjust to the moment, organizing virtual performances and new coalitions to distribute aid and advocate for relief. But the reality is that these spaces – these cathedrals of creativity – will simply not be able to stay afloat until science allows us to gather safely in large crowds again.
Until that day comes, we should not be forcing small business owners to make an impossible choice between taking on massive new debt and closing their doors forever. Right now, many are holding on not because they think it’s the economically advantageous choice, but because bringing people together is in their DNA, and their coworkers are like a chosen family.
We have both chosen to serve in local government. Our duty here is to take our experiences in nightlife to represent, preserve and protect this community and our city. We need to do everything in our power to make sure that these businesses, jobs, and the culture that we love can weather this unprecedented storm. Today that means ensuring this vital industry gets the federal relief it desperately needs in the form of the Save Our Stages bill. In our next act, we know that we will all get through this, and together we will all dance again.