Austin music venue owners desperate for Congress to pass Save Our Stages Act
AUSTIN, Texas - Owners of Austin music venues said without financial support their clubs won't survive much longer. One bill that could help keep their doors open is the Save our Stages Act.
It's been a tough seven months for clubs in the Live Music Capital of the World. "We’re desperate for help from anywhere," said Stephen Sternschein, co-owner of Empire Control Room & Garage.
Owners of longtime Austin favorites like the Broken Spoke said it costs them about $20,000 a month to hang on and there's still no revenue coming through the door.
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"We’ve already seen a ton of venues shut their doors forever and that is just going to keep getting worse, and nine out of ten clubs in Austin are going to disappear very shortly if we don’t act now," Sternschein said.
Financial issues affecting the clubs also impact their staff, vendors and musicians. "We’ve had to get pretty creative on how we’re hustling and we need to get back on stage," said Austin musician Monte Warden.
The Save Our Stages Act could be the answer club owners are hoping for. It would provide a grant program to help them afford utilities, rent, maintenance, even personal protection equipment.
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On Thursday, U.S. Representative Roger Williams advocated for the bill at one of Austin's oldest dance halls. "So, it’s my hope that venues, with the help of Congress and our communities, will be able to once again reopen and welcome their next act to the stage," said Williams.
Julie Oliver, who is fighting for Williams' seat, said it would be more helpful if the bill included rental assistance and healthcare for employees impacted by closed venues as well.
"So, if this is something that we can get done on a bipartisan basis across the president's desk, let’s get it done for Central Texas and for all of Texas. But we also need to support the people in the music industry, so this legislation doesn’t quite go far enough," Oliver said.
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Still, members of the National Independent Venue Association said they can't just wait on Washington D.C. to help. That's why NIVA also announced a partnership with YouTube to work with artists and create content in the coming weeks.
"The partnership with YouTube is really focused on supporting our emergency relief fund," said Sternschein, who is also a NIVA board member.
That way venues in Austin can keep the music playing whether or not they invite the crowd.
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