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US Senator Schumer backs bill to save independent venues

US Senator Chuck Schumer has shown his support for the $10bn bipartisan Save Our Stages Act which seeks to provide Federal aid to independent music venues facing closure due to COVID-19.

Schumer, who is the Minority Leader of the U.S. Senate, stood with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and Rev. Moose of the National Association of Independent Venues (NIVA) and others at a press conference outside of Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn yesterday (Tuesday) to voice his backing of the bill.

The Save Our Stages Act would provide six months of financial support to help keep venues afloat, pay employees and preserve a critical economic sector for communities across America. If passed, it would provide $10bn in grants through the Small Business Administration (SBA) to bolster independent music venues, with a NIVA survey suggesting 90 per cent of the US’s independent music venues expect to close within the next few months.

The US House bill was introduced in July by Roger Williams and Peter Welch, while companion legislation in the Senate is now co-sponsored by Schumer.

Schumer told reporters: “We’re here today because all of us believe that independent venues are vital. But due to Covid, there’s no revenue coming into these places. Independent venues were among the very first [businesses] to close during the pandemic and will be among the last to reopen — so we have to make sure they get federal funding.

“This is a $10 billion small-business administration program, and it’s vital not just for New York and Brooklyn but all states and even rural areas. Getting just $10 billion doesn’t seem like it should be that hard.

“We need to get them the funding — and I will do everything I can to get this done, because it is so important!”

Reverend Moose of NIVA also noted that the pandemic is an “extinction-level event” for independent venues.

He continued: “The government shut us down for health and safety reasons, which we understand, but it has hung an entire industry out to dry. We are at the precipice of a disaster.”

Representatives from New York venues the Blue Note, Elsewhere, Iridium and Le Poisson Rouge made similar statements.

The weeks ahead are crucial for shuttered venues across the country, which include Tipitina’s in New Orleans, the Troubador in Los Angeles and the Bitter End in New York. Meanwhile, Great Scott in Boston, Threadgill’s in Austin, the Eighteenth Street Lounge in Washington D.C. and Spaceland in L.A. have already closed.

Elsewhere, to highlight the desperate situation in the US, the UK-based #WeMakeEvents initiative is organising a North American day of action on August 27. The event will see 1,500 venues lit in red to signify that the industry is on red alert for its survival.

The movement held a similar event in the UK earlier this month, when 700 buildings were lit in red.