GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — More than 30 music venues and promoters are forming an association to lobby the state for financial aid in order to save the industry.
Scott Hammontree, owner of The Intersection in Grand Rapids, started the effort. He says the coronavirus is pandemic is devastating to his business. The concert venue has been closed, with no ability to even partially re-open, since mid-March.
“Yeah, it’s hard,” said Hammontree. “I’m having Zoom calls on how to teach people to sign up for unemployment, and it’s extremely difficult.”
Hammontree estimates COVID-19 postponed 60 shows at The Intersection, leaving $250,000 worth of potential refunds. He says it’s a similar situation for other businesses like his across the state, which is why Hammontree formed the Michigan Independent Venue and Promoter Association in November. It’s a local chapter of the National Independent Venue Association.
“I’m an optimist and a I’ll-never-give-up kind of person, so that’s what my philosophy has been,” said Hammontree.
The 31-member group is growing and is now asking the state legislature to set up a $10 million grant fund as lawmakers negotiate supplemental budget requests over the next two weeks. If it fails, Hammontree says they’ll try again in January.
Federally, the Save Our Stages Act is being considered. It would establish a $10 billion program, but Hammontree says his group needs to be prepared at every level.
“We have been forced to close at no fault of our own,” said Hammontree. “As an industry, we haven’t been clamoring to open. We’re not suing the governor. We know that having 1,500 people in here, on top of each other, singing, dancing, spraying their droplets, is not a safe thing to do, but at the same time we need help.”
Hammontree says the money would be used to pay rent, utilities, and any other expenses over the next six months. “It’s a bare minimum, but it would help the majority of our members survive.”
Hammontree says preliminary discussions with legislators are leaving him cautiously optimistic. “We just need a little help so we can get to the other side, re-open, and go right back to what we used to do,” he said.