After years of leaving friends' and family's names at the door of her venues, now First Avenue owner Dayna Frank has gotten on the guestlist at Sen. Amy Klobuchar's place of business.
Frank was picked to be Klobuchar's one invited guest for Tuesday night's State of the Union address by President Joe Biden at the U.S. Capitol.
The annual invitation — which in past years has gone to leaders of the Minnesota National Guard and Mayo Clinic — is only a virtual appearance this year, since Congress is still limiting crowds due to COVID safety. It includes a reception online before the speech.
However, the club owner said she nonetheless considers it a personal gesture of appreciation for the work she put in, co-founding a new national organization to generate business grants from Congress for shuttered entertainment venues around the country.
"It's an honor to represent the small, independent businesses that make up our industry at the State of the Union," said Frank, who became president of the National Independent Venues Association (NIVA) in the early stages of the pandemic.
NIVA successfully lobbied for the Save Our Stages Act, which last fall brought more than $16 billion in relief money to independent entertainment venues and related businesses — including $173 million doled out to more than 250 companies in Minnesota.
Most venues shut down abruptly in March 2020 and did not reopen until the summer of 2021.
"Independent venues, entertainment spaces and promoters are creators of cultural hubs in our small towns and big cities, and it is a joy to be able to safely open our doors again," Frank said, in turn thanking Klobuchar for her "tireless work" on the cause.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, co-authored the legislation with Minnesota's senior Democratic senator, who sang Frank's praises in a phone interview Tuesday.
"This is a tribute to her leadership — not just in Minnesota but nationally — in helping pass this bill," Klobuchar said. "Now that we're back to having full concert calendars, and theaters are open again amidst a lot of tumult, this is a positive thing to celebrate going forward."
When asked if she hopes Frank will pay her back by putting her name on the guest list for a concert soon, Klobuchar deferred to ethics guidelines for elected officials.
"I'd love to go," she said, "but I'll still have to pay my own way. And that's fine by me."