Published in Small Business
The Intersection, which includes four venues in downtown Grand Rapids, hosted its last concert on March 11. The Intersection, which includes four venues in downtown Grand Rapids, hosted its last concert on March 11. MIBIZ PHOTO: ANDY BALASKOVITZ

Michigan music venues seek $10 million COVID relief fund from state

BY Tuesday, September 22, 2020 12:23pm

Dozens of Michigan independent music venue owners are calling on state officials to create a $10 million pandemic relief fund to help them avoid closing permanently.

The request comes from Michigan-based members of the National Independent Venue Association, which was created in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to advocate for independently owned venues, which are among businesses at greatest risk of permanently closing.

The request for a $10 million Michigan-specific relief fund, which would be distributed among dozens of Michigan music venues to cover overhead costs, comes as efforts for federal relief continue to stall in Congress. NIVA has more than 70 members in Michigan that have been closed since March.

Scott Hammontree, partner and general manager at The Intersection in Grand Rapids, is a Michigan state captain for NIVA and has taken a lead role in advocating for venues, which are in a unique situation faced with virtually zero income and no timeline for reopening.

“While existing government assistance programs have helped other industries, they weren’t tailored to meet the needs of small businesses like ours that have zero revenue, enormous overhead and no visibility into when we can fully re-open,” Hammontree said in a statement. “We have not had any concerts since March 12th and it would appear we will not see any business until 2021 at best. Venues have a huge impact in their communities as employers and economic engines. Here in Michigan, our NIVA members have a $667M annual impact on the state’s economy.” 

Some music venues are gradually reopening on a limited basis. Owners of the Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids announced Monday that the venue’s bar is reopening for outdoor service, while the Listening Room in Grand Rapids has held small outdoor concerts during the summer.

Overall, though, Michigan venues have seen a 90 percent loss in revenue, according to NIVA, while crowded events are nowhere on the horizon.

“Through no fault of our own our businesses remain shuttered,” Hammontree said. “We are asking the State of Michigan to step in and help save our businesses. If we close it will have a devastating effect on the economies in our communities.”

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