‘First to close and last to reopen’: L.A. music and performance venues barely hang on as pandemic persists

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More than 2,500 independent venues around the country have joined efforts to push for legislation that would provide them with loans and grants as they struggle amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Miley Cyrus and the Foo Fighters are among several big performers who participated in a three-day, virtual “Save Our Stages” festival this past weekend. The online event raised money and awareness for the National Independent Venue Association Emergency Relief Fund, which aims to help struggling live music and performance venues that are sinking due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

“We’re a crowd-based business, so we need people to come in to enjoy what we’re doing,” said Dave Reinitz, a partner at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank. “The only reason we’ve been able to stay in business and keep our doors open and keep some of our people working is because we’re small and we’re nimble and we’re creative.”

The comedy club has started doing comedy shows via Zoom.

The Viper Room in West Hollywood has taken a similar approach to make ends meet.

“We’re all doing streams and what we can to generate revenue. We all have expenses,” said Tommy Black, general manager of The Viper Room.

Like the others, the Cicada Club in downtown Los Angeles has been closed since March.

“We are totally shut down. We’re nothing,” said Maxwell Demille, the live music director of the venue. “First to close and last to reopen.”

The venues are facing zero revenue, high overhead and no definite timeline for reopening.

“Some will hold on but a lot of the really cool ones won’t,” Black said. “It’s not just the venues, it’s the staff at the venus and the bands.”

Donations made to the emergency relief fund will help member organizations that applied for assistance.

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