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Neumos in Seattle, in a Pandemic: Shows Are Still Canceling

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.)


How are things going for you since we last talked? 

We had our third break in at (my restaurant) Life on Mars. I now have an alarm. The funny thing about me not having an alarm, is that when I moved to Washington in 1991, I sold burglar alarms for three years. I know how shitty they can be with false alarms and everything, so I was like ‘I don’t want an alarm.’ But this time we had a pro job. They came in through the back door, got into the office, took our portable P.O.S. devices and multiple laptops. The other times people broke in, they didn’t get much. This time they got us bad.  

We’ve got insurance and all that but there is still a deductible. It’s not cheap. It is a pain the ass and I am still dealing with the insurance on top of finding an alarm system. We had to buy new laptops. I had to buy one for the assistant GM who left her laptop in the office locked in a backpack. It’s just frustrating, very frustrating.  

They knew exactly what they were doing. We’ve got cameras everywhere and they were able to stay out of sight. They knew how to keep their car license plate out of the cameras even though we saw their car. They were fully masked. How much money are they even going to get selling those P.O.S. devices? It does not seem like those would be very easy to sell.  


How did the community react to the burglary? 

We have friends who own this place called the Rhein Haus and they loaned us their extra P.O.S. systems. Another local business loaned us a laptop so we could do our ordering. People were awesome and stepping up immediately to help us so we didn’t have to get all new stuff that day. I’m sure some [patrons] came out to support us that weren’t planning on coming out, which is great. Everything right now is just hard. I’m frustrated.

Are things frustrating at Neumos as well? 

Shows are still canceling and people aren’t coming to shows at much as we would like them to. I don’t know that I can completely blame them. I get it. It’s just all not getting any easier. We had Bonobo and The Oh Sees and those were pretty good. We had Kelly Lee Owens and that did really well. Everything else, not so much. The next week or two are rough. People are just not coming out. A lot of stuff that should be doing well, is just not. The hospitalizations are still high.  


You were encouraging your local and state government to mandate vaccine requirements for shows. How is that going? 

I was working with the state, city and county, begging them to pass vaccine mandates and it happened. They announced it last week [for King County]. Now restaurants, bars, venues, gyms, museums and most places other than retail and grocery stores you have to have proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test within 72 hours. We are trying to get them to come up with some sort of Excelsior card (Excelsior is the verification app used by the state of New York) or something so that everybody has the same thing to verify. I’ve gotten so tired of waiting for them to do this. I get that there are certain places that you can’t do it like grocery stores or anything essential. But if it’s not essential, why not?