With the owner of Minnesota’s most legendary rock club leading a lobbying group under the SaveOurStages banner, Minnesota’s senior U.S. senator has co-authored a bill under the same working title to help music venues closed by COVID-19.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar has co-authored the Save Our Stages Act with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, which will provide Small Business Administration grants to music venues that expect to be closed through the rest of 2020.
The bill, introduced Wednesday, asks for $10 billion to help venues through the next six months. The funds would be distributed via grants of up to $12 million per venue, or 45% of the venues’ operating costs in 2019.
Klobuchar gave a shout-out to First Ave and its most famous star in her statement announcing the bill.
“Minnesota’s concert halls, theatres, and places of entertainment, like First Avenue in Minneapolis, where Prince famously performed, have inspired generations with the best of local music, art, and education,” she said. “This legislation would help ensure that small entertainment venues can continue to operate, and serve our communities for generations to come.”
Among the specifics, the bill pledges to “narrowly define independent live venue operators, promoters, and talent representatives to prevent large, international corporations from receiving federal grant funding.”
Live Nation, which owns the new Fillmore Minneapolis club as well as Ticketmaster, would thus not be eligible.
Klobuchar and Cornyn were among 40 senators who signed a letter to congressional leaders in May that initially raised the issues brought to them by the newly formed National Independent Venues Association (NIVA).
First Avenue owner Dayna Frank is president of NIVA, which she created with club owners from New York and Milwaukee in April after brainstorming ways to save their shuttered venues. NIVA hired a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm to state their case for federal support until concerts can resume again — probably not until next year at the earliest.
Frank recently told the Star Tribune that most Minnesota music venues cannot operate profitably under current state guidelines that limit attendance at indoor entertainment facilities to 25% of their capacity.
“Everyone across the board said their break-even point was at least 50 percent capacity, and more like 75 percent,” she said. “I don’t know if any of us can survive long enough for that. Not without help.”
Nearly 2,000 venues around the country have since signed on as NIVA members, including other Minnesota music havens such as the Dakota, Amsterdam Bar & Hall, Mortimer’s, the State and Orpheum theaters, Moorhead’s Bluestem Amphitheater, Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center and First Ave’s sister venues the Palace and Fitzgerald theaters, Turf Club and Fine Line.