Touring

Venues Closing Across America: An Updating List (And Why It Matters)

Barracuda venue
Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW

Barracuda in Austin, Texas.

Independent music venues across the United States are in dire straits as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep their doors shuttered. Since March, these businesses have struggled without revenue and insufficient government assistance, while rent and insurance payments have still been due. As a result, a growing number of independent venues have been forced to shutter permanently.

The National Independent Venues Association, a new trade group that formed in April in response to the pandemic, says that nine out of 10 of its nearly 3,000 members will close their businesses by October without meaningful financial assistance from the federal government. The Save Our Stages Act -- introduced in July to the Senate by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and to the House by Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Roger Williams (R-TX-25) -- would establish a $10 billion grant program to provide at least six months of financial support to keep venues afloat, pay employees and preserve a critical economic sector for communities across America. The organization is still pushing for this legislation, but since then -- with Congress stuck in partisan gridlock over a new relief package -- there has been little progress in getting it through.

“Our members expected resolution in July and have held out past their breaking points borrowing or scraping together anything they could until Congress makes a decision, but there is no further to go,” Dayna Frank, president of NIVA and CEO of First Avenue Productions in Minneapolis, said in a statement earlier this month. “Businesses will be closed, and homes will be lost if Congress doesn't take immediate action. We need action now.”

Echoing Frank’s concerns are independent venue owners like Steven Severin, who says music venues can not be easily replaced once they disappear due to the gentrification and the rising cost of rent in neighborhoods these venues have helped elevate to cultural epicenters.

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“Music venues that are around started in the neighborhoods that were less than desirable, because you had to have cheap rent to be able to have that much space,” Severin, a co-owner of Neumos in Seattle tells Billboard. “As time goes on, they become more desirable and now, Neumos for example, is in an entertainment district. It used to be Auto Row. It’s not going to be new music venues that come in, it’s going to be condos.” 

While Severin is hoping Congress will commit to supporting venues like his, in the meantime he and other venues in Seattle have been lobbying local and state government for financial support with some positive results. King County, where Seattle is located, provided $750,000 to independent music venues in August. But Severin says it won’t be enough to keep the businesses open for the long term and they are seeking additional support from the state of Washington. Similar lobbying efforts have taken place in Austin, Portland and Nashville, where the city council recently provided $2 million in federal CARES Act money to the Music Venue Alliance Nashville.

Concert venues are not only cultural centers, but also considerable economic drivers for their local communities. In 2019, the local trade group Music Venue Alliance Nashville says its 16 members paid $576,000 in liquor taxes, $1.2 million in sales tax and $5.2 million to more than 46,000 local and visiting performers for 5,600 concerts that generated $6.1 million in ticket sales. And, as with Neumos, they’re well proven to help transform neighborhoods, attract new residents and contribute to tourism, while holding considerable accounts with food and beverage distributors and local lighting, sound and event contractors.

For instance, Severin says Neumos sells the most Pabst Blue Ribbon in the entire state of Washington and has for the past decade. “The effect that I think of is the farmer that is making the hops isn’t going to be able to sell as much hops as they did at one point because of all the cases that we sell a year,” he says. “Then there is every step in between that, and that is just beer. If we go away, if music venues go away across the country, it is going to have a massive ripple effect. We are already seeing it. Everybody is touched by this disaster.”

Austen Bailey, talent buyer for Mohawk in Austin and member of Music Venue Alliance - Austin, says even in a city that calls itself the country’s “live music capital,” music venues still need to lay out their financial importance to government officials. “The more organized and unified venues are about telling the story of the $23.4 billion in economic activity that the music business in Texas produces while employing 200,000-plus people and generating $390 million in tax revenue, the better,” he says.

Despite the fact that the Save Our Stages has already been co-sponsored by more than 140 senators and representatives, independent venues across the country are still desperately awaiting federal assistance. Meanwhile, the situation is worsening, as many amass growing debt just to stay afloat, in hopes they may continue their life's work beyond the pandemic.

To help document the endangerment of independent music venues across the country, Billboard has compiled a partial list of venues that have been forced to close during the pandemic. We will continue to update the list as we become aware of additional closures. Please reach out to touring@billboard.com with information about closed venues not yet listed.

Partial List of Permanently Closed Venues

Alabama

  • Tangled String Studios in Huntsville

Arizona

  • The Greenroom in Flagstaff
  • Chicago Bar in Tucson

California

  • The Satellite in Los Angeles
  • Slim’s in San Francisco
  • The Graduate in San Luis Obispo
  • The Uptown in Oakland
  • Starline Social Club in Oakland (up for sale)

Colorado

  • The Henry Strater Theatre in Durango
  • Intrinzik in Montrose
  • 3 Kings Tavern in Denver
  • Live @ Jack’s in Denver
  • Le Cour Denver’s Art Bar in Denver
  • Hodi's Half Note in Fort Collins
  • Local 46 in Denver

Connecticut

  • MAC650 in Middletown

Florida

  • The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton

Georgia

  • The Vista Room in Decatur
  • The Jinx 912 in Savannah
  • The Music Room in Atlanta
  • The Country Club Dancehall & Saloon in Augusta

Illinois

  • IO Theater in Chicago

Iowa

  • The Mill in Iowa City
  • Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines

Kansas

  • Kanza Hall in Kansas City

Kentucky

  • Cosmic Charlie’s in Lexington

Maine

  • Port City Music Hall in Portland

Maryland

  • The Soundry in Columbia

Massachusetts

  • Great Scott (AEG) in Boston
  • The C Note in Hull
  • Thunder Road Music Club in Somerville
  • Bull McCabe's in Somerville
  • The Cantab Lounge in Cambridge (up for sale)
  • Studio at 550 in Cambridge (relocating to unidentified location)

Michigan

  • Majestic Theatre in Detroit (up for sale)
  • Magic Stick Music Venue in Detroit (up for sale)

Minnesota

  • Honey in Minneapolis

Missouri

  • The Ready Room in St. Louis

New York

  • Upright Citizens Brigade in New York
  • Burgundy Basin in Pittsford
  • Shetler Studios in New York
  • The Well in Bushwick
  • Copacabana in New York

North Carolina

  • The Mothlight in West Asheville
  • THE BLOCK off biltmore in Asheville

Ohio

  • Wolf Den in Cleveland
  • Thursday’s Lounge in Akron
  • Stella's Music Club in Cleveland

Pennsylvania

  • Brillobox in Pittsburgh
  • Warmdaddy’s in Philadelphia
  • Chameleon Club in Lancaster
  • The Rex Theater in Pittsburgh

Tennessee

  • Douglas Corner Cafe in Nashville
  • Songbirds in Chattanooga
  • The Willow Tree in Johnson City
  • Midtown Crossing Grill in Memphis

Texas

  • Lizard Lounge in Dallas
  • Threadgill's in Austin
  • Shady Grove in Austin
  • Republic Country Club and BBQ in Houston
  • The Blue Light in Dallas
  • Gas Monkey Live in Dallas
  • Barracuda in Austin
  • Plush in Austin
  • Scratchouse in Austin
  • Blue Light Dallas in Dallas
  • Tomcats West in Dallas
  • Big Texas Dance Hall & Saloon in Spring
  • The North Door in Austin
  • The Townsend in Austin
  • One-2-One Bar in Austin

Washington

  • Re-bar in Seattle
  • The Firefly Lounge in Bellingham
  • Tony V’s Garage in Everett
  • The Swiss in Tacoma
  • Louie G’s in Fife
  • The Pin in Spokane

Wisconsin

  • Fire on Water in Milwaukee
  • Underground Collaborative in Milwaukee
  • Up & Under in Milwaukee
  • The Riverwest Public House Cooperative in Milwaukee

Washington, D.C.

  • Eighteenth Street Lounge
  • Twins Jazz
  • U Street Music Hall

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