The long awaited “Save Our Stages” bill is part of the $900 billion that’s expected to be approved by Congress, providing economic relief to those affected by Covid-19.

Congress has agreed to a new bipartisan relief package that allocates $15 billion in funding to independent movie theaters and concert venues.

According to USA Today’s Nicholas Wu, the relief package incorporates the Save Our Stages Act. First introduced by Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota over the summer, the act calls for six months of financial support to “keep venues afloat, pay employees, and preserve a critical economic sector for communities across America.”

Pop star Michael Buble is scheduled to perform at the Moline arena Feb. 20, 2021, but the arena director has his doubts it will happen.

Under the original proposal, venues would be provided grants accounting for either 45% of a business’ operation costs from the previous year or $12 million in total — whichever is the lesser amount.

Venues would then be allowed to use that money to pay off “costs incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic” as well as rent, utilities, mortgages, personal protective equipment, maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, and expenses to meet local and federal social distancing guidelines.

The National Independent Venue Association, which was formed earlier this year in response to the pandemic and represents roughly 2,800 venues from all over the US, had been lobbying Congress to pass the Save Our Stages Act without delay. According to a study commissioned over the summer, 90% of NIVA’s members said they would eventually be forced to cease operations permanently without federal support.

In the interim, NIVA sought to raise money for independent venues through corporate donations and other initiatives, including the digital #SOSFest.

“We’re thrilled that Congress has heard the call of shuttered independent venues across the country and provided us a crucial lifeline by including the Save Our Stages Act in the Covid relief bill,” said NIVA board president Dayna Frank, who is also owner and CEO of First Avenue Productions in Minneapolis.

“We’re also incredibly grateful that this bill provides Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which will help the millions of people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own during this economic crisis,” she said. “We urge swift passage of this legislation, which will assist those in the greatest need and ensure the music lives on for generations to come.”

Moline’s TaxSlayer is fighting for inclusion in federal Covid relief under Save Our Stages.

Scott Mullen, executive director of the TaxSlayer Center, Moline, said Monday that the Save Our Stages Act was crafted by nightclub owners and arenas – but venues like TaxSlayer would not qualify for help due to a requirement they put in that says that 70% of the venue’s events must be artist performances. So buildings with sports tenants are excluded due to the number of games they play, Mullen said.

“I have been working with the International Association of Venue Managers as their Director of Arenas to get Congress to include more venues included in the relief bill,” Mullen said. “We have a lobbyist and have appealed to elected officials to include public entities and municipal corporations like the Illinois Quad City Civic Center Authority in their legislation.

“I have heard that there is now language in the relief bill that would include venues like ours and we are hopeful that it will remain in the final approved version,” he said.

“Arenas were the first businesses to close and will be the last to re-open,” Mullen said Monday, noting the TaxSlayer Center (1201 River Drive, Moline) generates $80 million to $100 million a year in economic impact to the community and “plays a vital role in quality of life for the Quad-Cities,” he said.

“Including venues like our in relief funding should be a top priority for Congress,” Mullen said.

In June, 600 well-known artists sent a letter to Congress (among 2 million letters) supporting Save Our Stages.

“We will know America is ‘back’ when our music venues are filled with fans safely enjoying concerts with abandon,” the artists’ letter said. “The live music experience is inextricably tied to our nation’s cultural and economic fabric.”

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“We are asking you to support NIVA’s request for assistance so these beloved venues can reopen when it’s safe and welcome us and our fans back in,” the letter continued. “The collapse of this crucial element in the music industry’s ecosystem would be devastating.”

A NIVA letter to Congress said that the live-event industry is 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 close their doors forever.

“This will take a toll on our local economy,” according to the NIVA form letter. “A Chicago study estimated that $1 spent at a small venue resulted in $12 of economic activities for neighboring restaurants, hotels, and retail shops. Venues drive revenue to other businesses in cities and towns across America.

The National Independent Venue Association urges patrons to support their local music venues.

“These venues closing permanently would also impact the entire music economy and ecosystem in America – artists, talent agents, stagehands, security, catering, artist managers, tour bus industry, production, radio/social media/TV/print advertising, record companies, and many others,” the letter said.

Formed at the onset of the Covid shutdown, National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) now represents more than 3,000 independent venues and promoters in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. These independent venues and promoters were the first to close and will be the last to fully reopen.

NIVA’s mission is to preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live venues, promoters and festivals throughout the United States.

The first 2021 date on Tax Slayer Center’s calendar is a rescheduled Michael Buble concert, from May 14, 2020, planned for Feb. 20. The popular Canadian crooner’s 2019 world tour included 82 shows in front of over 1.2 million people.

Buble last played the Moline arena in June 2011 and October 2008, but Mullen has doubts whether the 2021 tour will go on as scheduled. Buble is set to reopen touring Feb. 3 in Salt Lake City, according to his website.

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“I don’t have a lot of confidence that the Governor will allow us to open by then, especially at full capacity,” Mullen said Monday of the February Moline date, “but this is unpredictable and nothing has been determined yet.”

To learn more about NIVA’s quest to gain federal funding for independent venues, visit www.nivassoc.org/take-action.

In addition to the $15 billion “for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions,” other key provisions included as part of the agreement, according to a release Sunday evening from House and Senate Democratic leaders are:

  • Direct payment checks of up to $600 per adult and child.
  • Aid for struggling small businesses, including more than $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans.
  • $300 per week for enhanced unemployment insurance benefits.
  • $25 billion for rental assistance and an eviction moratorium extension.
  • $82 billion for education providers like schools and colleges, including aid to help reopen classrooms safely.
  • $10 billion to help with childcare assistance.
  • $13 billion in increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and child nutrition benefits.
  • $7 billion to bolster broadband access to help Americans connect remotely during the pandemic.
  • Funding totaling in the billions of dollars to support coronavirus vaccine distribution, testing and contract tracing efforts and health care workers.
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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.