The organizers of the U.S. version of Independent Venue Week have shifted their direction to helping dozens of small clubs and music venues across the country with figuring out how to ride out widespread closures caused by the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
New York-based Marauder Group held the first of a planned series of teleconference panels and discussions to give owners and operators around the country the opportunity to discuss the challenges they face from either outright closures of bars and restaurants or strict limits on the size of gatherings.
Among the discussion topics: finding alternative business models with most performances canceled or indefinitely postponed, how to plan for a return to normal business at a still-unknown time, possible state and federal assistance programs to help with cash flow issues, and options for providing pay to employees and performers while no revenue is coming in.
“If that achieved nothing else, it hopefully gave people the comfort to know that what they’re going through is not just them,” said Rev. Moose, co-founder of Marauder. “You have something that is catastrophic in nature and it just wasn’t the time to figure it all out individually.”
Marauder, an international music marketing company, launched Independent Venue Week in 2018 based on the model established by so-called grassroots music venues in the United Kingdom. The 2020 edition of the event was on pace to feature more than 150 venues in 75 cities across the U.S.
Another call among the group was planned. Moose said one likely area of focus would be progress made at the local level to clarify allowable business models under tight limits on the size of gatherings.
“I hope some are having better headway with their local governments so then they can bring that back to be used in other places,” he said. “We’re trying to work as a collective and figure out how we can work together to save these independent small businesses so that these venues are able to continue to operate by the time assembly bans are lifted.”
Cindy Barber, co-owner of Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom, said she’s looking at cutting every expense possible to cover the club’s roughly $50,000 overhead not including staff payroll. Another pressing is figuring out the calendar for Beachland’s two stages — one a 148 cap, the other at 500 — that combined hold more than 500 performances a year.
One option Barber is hoping becomes available is U.S. Small Business Administration loans for disaster relief that states had to sign up for individually. The SBA is offering low-interest loans for working capital to Ohio small businesses that have suffered substantial economic injury after a request by state Gov. Mike DeWine.
“I can’t imagine if we have to go any farther than May what we’re going to do. My brain just won’t handle it. My (business) partner is tracking everything he can read about the virus and it’s saying we may not be able to reopen until the fall,” she said. “We’re trying to cut everything. I put my waste pickup on hold, our coffee order … everything we can eliminate we’re going to eliminate while we’re down.”