National Organization Asks for Support for Local Music Venues

The Casbah
Rosemary Bystrak

When I went to the Casbah on March 13 to see the Los Angeles-based vocal powerhouse Lauren Ruth Ward perform, there was an uneasy feeling in the room. Many of us realized that night would be the last show for the foreseeable future. Two days later, gatherings of any size with people outside of your household were banned in California.

While many California businesses start rolling out their Safe Reopening Plans on Wednesday, independent music venues are left waiting -- it's been stated many times over that concerts in California can not return until Phase 4, when there's a vaccine for the novel coronavirus or therapeutics to treat it. Since there has been no distinction made by Gov. Gavin Newsom, it would be interesting to know if the term "concerts" refers to all live-music performances -- there's a big difference between Lauren Ruth Ward playing the Casbah as opposed, to, say, Coachella or the Stones playing at San Diego County Credit Union Stadium. It will be interesting to see if such a distinction is made once Phase 3 begins.

Live-music venues, for the most part, are being patient. There is no rush to reopen until it's safe for staff and patrons to do so, but in the meantime, NIVA -- the National Association of Independent Venues -- was created to lobby both houses of Congress for additional consideration for music venues in future stimulus or aid packages. San Diego members of NIVA include the Casbah, Brick By Brick, the Belly Up, Music Box, Soda Bar, the Bancroft, The Holding Company, the Merrow, Tower Bar and the Til-Two Club.

In a letter sent to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on April 22, NIVA urged the federal government to act, providing funding, tax relief and additional assistance will be needed to keep small venues viable:

“Our businesses were among the first to close as COVID-19 spread across the country, and, unfortunately, are also likely to be among the last to reopen. Recently, leaders in both California and New York expressed skepticism about the return of concerts and live events until at least 2021, which means that, in order to protect lives, our employees and artists may remain without jobs and we may remain without revenue for an entire year or more," the letter stated, adding that "right now, without your help, thousands of independent venues will not survive to see the day when our doors can be open to the public again."

The letter also pointed out that booking and tour routing take months of preparation, and venues will still suffer greatly if made to operate at less than full capacity.

NIVA has requested the public's support and are requesting live-music fans to use an online tool that will generate emails to congressional representatives.

In addition to being a contributor to SoundDiego, Rosemary Bystrak is also the publicist for the Casbah -- Ed.

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