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Neumos in Seattle, in a Pandemic: Neumos and Barboza Host First Shows in 476 Days

As part of Billboard's efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we have been speaking with Steven Severin regularly to chronicle his experience throughout…

As co-owner of Seattle’s popular independent venue Neumos in Capitol Hill, Steven Severin has been a staple in the Seattle music industry for more than 20 years. Roughly 10 years ago, he helped create the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association to bring together the area’s live event insiders, and for the past 16 years has helped run Neumos with its sister club Barboza and the accompanying Runaway bar.

As part of Billboard‘s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we have been speaking with Severin regularly to chronicle his experience throughout the crisis. (Read the last installment here and see the full series here.)


What has changed for you since we last spoke?

Neumos and Barboza opened on July 1. It was all locals and people who work for us. We had Charm the Nomad downstairs [at Barboza] which was a massive underplay for her. It sold out in, I don’t know, a week. She is killer. Upstairs we did this band Spirit Award, which is our assistant GM who is in like 17 bands. Folks from Real Estate, Deep Sea Diver and the Shins came and played. It sounded like it was pretty amazing.  

You weren’t there? 

I couldn’t be there. I can’t stand right now and there is nowhere to sit. But seeing the big line outside and hearing people talk about that – that’s what we do. That’s what we’ve done for half of my life. Literally half my life I have thrown shows and then I haven’t been able to for the last 476 days. We were closed for 476 days. Nothing can ruffle my feathers anymore if we can make it through this.  

Are there still capacity limits for your venues? 


Do people have to wear masks? 

Nope. You have to have proof that you’re vaccinated or you have to wear a mask. You just have to have a picture of your card. Our vaccination rate in King County and Seattle is super high, but people come from outside of Seattle and it makes people feel more comfortable. It makes us feel more comfortable. But yeah, it is back to 100%. It is going to be weird seeing people be shoulder to shoulder again after so long.  


Any news from the SBA about your Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application? 

[Laughs] I had a friend yesterday tell me how tired I looked. I am so tired and so frustrated. I know that [the SBA] is trying, but it is hard to just accept that it’s so screwed up. The fact that tier 2 and tier 3 people are getting paid before tier 1 is just not okay. (Ed. Note: Tier 1 applicants lost 90% or more of their revenue in 2020, while tier 2 and 3 lost 70% and 25%, respectively.) Now they say they are going to focus and only look at tier 1 applications, but it’s like, “How were you not already doing that?” That was part of the plan. We lost 90% of our income for a year. How do you go and fund somebody who has only lost 50% or even 75%? Everybody needs help, but there are some people who need more help. There are people who are going to close. I hear about it everyday. Then people are getting declined and it sounds like a mistake. The SBA is very apologetic and they sound like they are really trying, but it’s not rocket science.  

Do you personally know venues that have received their funds? 

Lots. I think it’s up to 20% of venues have been either told that they have money coming or have gotten money. (Ed. Note: According to the SBA site, just over 4,220 applicants have been granted awards, which comes out to roughly 28% of the 14,884 applications submitted.) Lots of people I know have gotten it who have really needed it. We celebrate every single one. But then there are people I helped apply and they applied way later than I did. I’m just baffled. [Laughs] Just tell me it’s coming. Just let me know so I can let that stress go.