DC-area music venues could see much-needed funding if relief bill becomes law

Alabama Shakes performs at the 9:30 Club at 815 V Street NW. (Courtesy John Shore)
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The article has been corrected and updated with the proper naming of the Small Business Administration.)

The Save Our Stages Act has passed through Congress as part of the latest coronavirus relief package, giving some local music venues hope.

The $15 billion of funding for independent venues was included in the latest COVID-19 relief bill.

Though the stimulus package hasn’t been signed by President Donald Trump yet, the move forward for the Save Our Stages Act could give D.C.-area music venues much-needed help.

“Long time coming are the key words. It’s been torture waiting,” said Daniel Brindley, owner of Union Stage and Jammin’ Java.

He said that while it’s good news, he’s not celebrating quite yet. “I’ll believe it when I see it. I don’t want to be too much of a naysayer but this year has been full of so much uncertainty,” Brindley said.

The bill would offer independent venues the opportunity to apply for a grant from the Small Business Administration equal to 45% of gross revenue from 2019 with a cap of $10 million per entity.

“My hope has been diminished left and right in this past year just through the way the year has gone,” Brindley said.

Audrey Fix Schaefer, spokeswoman for the 9:30 Club, The Anthem, the Lincoln Theatre and Merriweather Post Pavilion, said it’s a step in the right direction, but that there’s no timeline for when the money could be available to local venues.

“The emergency relief cannot come soon enough,” Fix Schaefer said. “This has been an absolute brutal chapter for local venues.”

She said the delay in funding caused 18th Street Lounge, U Street Music Hall and Twin’s Jazz to close since the coronavirus pandemic forced performance venues to shut their doors to customers in March.

The National Independent Venue Association said that more than 2.1 million emails were sent to local venues across the country in support of the Save Our Stages Act.

Fix Schaefer is also the director of communications for the National Independent Venue Association, which was started when pandemic restrictions hit the U.S.

“It feels like help is on the way but you can’t see the rescue boat yet,” Fix Schaefer said. “There are a lot of venues in the middle of the ocean and have been treading water, and I hope they can hold on until help is finally here.”

Brindley said it’s been a year of disappointment for local venues, so he’s hanging onto hope.

“We get our hopes up that we’re reopening and then we get shut back down, we get added to the live entertainment pilot program in D.C. and then it gets shut down. It’s one step forward and two steps back through no fault of our own,” Brindley said.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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