By Eric Renner Brown
No one was prepared for the coronavirus pandemic, but Katie Tuten was more prepared than many.
The seasoned club owner, who has overseen Chicago’s The Hideout for a quarter-century with husband Tim Tuten and brothers Jim and Mike Hinchsliff, helped found the Chicago Independent Venue League in late 2018 to give indies a voice as Live Nation eyed five new venues at the city’s Lincoln Yards development. (Chicago lawmakers ultimately nixed that aspect of the project.)
When COVID-19 struck, The Hideout and other Chicago clubs were positioned to respond immediately to the business threat posed.
“Especially during this time of COVID, we have looked upon each other and leaned upon each other for support and advice and collaboration,” Tuten said. “We had all been meeting on a regular basis and knew and trusted each other and, frankly, had each other’s cellphone numbers.”
Through CIVL, Chicago venue owners have pooled brainpower to navigate federal and state relief programs, while advocating for additional government help — essentially a Chicago-specific version of the National Independent Venue Association, of which Tuten is a founding member. CIVL’s members have also raised funds together, splitting their earnings.
“Chicago is one of the crown jewels in the country, because we have so many independent venues, and we really are mom-and-pop operations,” Tuten said. “You can walk into any of our clubs, and we’re all there working.”
Tuten sees a connection between the steel and construction workers The Hideout began serving during Prohibition and the Depression and the artists, many of them local and emerging, whom it presents today.
“We used to manufacture steel,” she said. “Now we manufacture rock. We manufacture music. We create.”
Though Tuten reminds that CIVL’s members are “fiercely independent,” she says the group has helped the frequent competitors find common ground. “Collectively,” she said, “we understand the power in a united voice.”