Stimulus Bill Could Provide Long-Awaited Relief To Georgia's Independent Music Venues
Georgia's independent music venues have been pleading with state and local government officials for additional assistance to help them weather the pandemic. With the passage of the new stimulus bill, relief may finally be on the way.
Josh Antennuci, owner of the Center Stage venue in downtown Atlanta, had a grim prognosis for the future when he spoke to GPB News earlier this year during the onset of the pandemic.
"I think there's a there's a risk for all venues to close," he said in May. "Until we have some concrete idea of how to reopen safely, we don't even know what to plan for at this point."
The venue, which is a part of a newly formed coalition called the National Independent Venue Association, had been hoping for an additional relief package for months. With no clear date for when live shows can safely return without the risk of creating a "super spreader" event, the outlook for music venues across the country seemed bleak. Center Stage, like other locations around the state, has not had a show since the early part of 2020.
Other historic Atlanta venues are also part of NIVA, including the Masquerade and Smith's Olde Bar.
"The only solace is that we do have friends and people we respect that are in the exact same position as us," Antenucci said. "Their voice elevates our cause; my voice elevates theirs."
However, with the passage of the new stimulus bill also came a relief package for independent entertainment venues. The provision, previously named the "Save Our Stages Act" by NIVA, offers a grant of up to 45% of revenue losses for businesses across the country.
"The caveat to that, of course, is that the funds must be used for approved expenditures and those approved expenditures are the ones that we need in order to be able to reopen again one day," Antennuci said. "They're the core necessities like rent and utilities and payroll for necessary workers."
Antennuci said that with the relief funds has come a renewed sense of optimism about the future of his industry.
"I feel relieved today," he said. "I feel excited, mostly, for the first time in quite a while. I feel optimistic that our businesses stand a chance of surviving this pandemic."
Even with that optimism, though, he is still reluctant to put a time frame on when shows could return to Atlanta.
"I think it still remains too early to tell when gathering with any density indoors is going to be viable," he said. "And until we can do that safely from the medical perspective, we cannot even begin to project how we can do it from the economics of our business perspective."
The future of the stimulus bill was briefly put into question last week when President Donald Trump stalled on signing the package, objecting over the $600 personal stimulus check provision. Trump eventually did sign the bill last Sunday, but demanded Congress take action to increase the check amount to $2,000. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that effort does not "have a clear path forward."
Note: In addition to being a journalist for GPB, the author plays in a band distributed by Warner Music Group. They have previously performed at and been compensated by the venues mentioned in this article.