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Shuttered venues in US bolstered by extra $1.25bn

Struggling concert halls in the US will receive additional aid, thanks to a $1.9 billion stimulus package passed by the Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday (10 March) and signed into law by President Joe Biden the following day.

The new aid package, known as the American Rescue Package, includes an additional $1.25bn for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG), also known as the Save Our Stages Act, which was part of last year’s aid package.

However, a new amendment to the Save Our Stages Act, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, enables venue owners to apply for additional federal help – unlike the original act which prohibited them from applying for both a grant and a loan to protect their employees’ salaries.

“This change can save countless halls from bankruptcy, as the money will help them to last until the available funds are paid”

“This change can save countless halls from bankruptcy, as the money will help them to last until the available funds are paid,” said Dayna Frank, chair of the board of directors of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and CEO of First Avenue Productions in Minneapolis, in a statement.

Eligible venue operators can now apply for the new round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP2) loans that closes on 31 March to help them stay afloat until the Small Business Administration (SBA) has set up the SVOG programme, which has yet to announce a launch date.

The $15bn SVOG programme/Save Our Stages Act for theatre operators and small venue owners was passed by US Congress in December 2020, as part of a wider $900bn Covid-19 stimulus package.

 


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NY stadiums, arenas permitted to reopen

New York governor Andrew Cuomo will allow major stadiums and arenas to reopen with a capacity of 10% from 23 February.

The guidelines for reopening will be based on the testing pilot programme conducted by the NFL team Buffalo Bills at the weekend, in which 6,700 fans who presented negative tests, and agreed to contact tracing, attended the game socially distanced

In order for stadiums and arenas to reopen at 10%, all fans and staff planning to attend an event will need to provide a negative PCR test within the 72 hours prior. Fans must also be temperature checked upon entering a venue and will be required to wear face coverings while in attendance.

Indoor arenas must observe enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards, as well as socially distanced seating configurations. The permission applies to stadiums and arenas with a capacity of 10,000 or more.

The Barclays Center (cap. 19,000) in Brooklyn has already announced plans for their first event and will welcome fans back to the arena on 23 February for a basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Sacramento Kings.

“While we continue to fight Covid on multiple fronts, we must also get this economy reopened intelligently and in a balanced way,” said governor Cuomo.

“While we continue to fight Covid on multiple fronts, we must also get this economy re-opened intelligently”

“Live sports and entertainment have long been engrained in the fabric of New York and the inability to hold events has only added to the isolation we have all felt at the hands of this virus.

“Thankfully, our pilot program to reopen Buffalo Bills games to fans was an unparalleled success and now we are taking that model and expanding it to other large venues across the state to not only reinvigorate local economies, but also help bring some fun and joy back into people’s lives as safely as possible.”

Cuomo has also announced that the state will host concerts for the first time in a year as part of the New York Arts Revival programme he announced in January.

More than 300 pop-up gigs will take place between 20 February and 6 September (Labor Day) at venues including the Apollo Theater, Harlem Stage, La Mama, and Alice Busch Opera Theatre.

The governor says the gigs will visit flexible venues with no fixed seating so event formats can be reconfigured to allow adequate social distancing.

In January, Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to US president Joe Biden, predicted that live performances could resume this autumn, depending on how widely the Covid-19 vaccine can be distributed by then.

Fauci suggested that if between 70% and 85% of the US population would have to be vaccinated, venues with good ventilation and proper air filters could open without social distancing – though some theatres may ask audience members to continue to wear masks.

 


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US concert biz offers skills and staff for vaccinations

The major American promoters, venue operators and industry associations have formally offered their venues, staff and expertise towards the United States’ national Covid-19 vaccination effort.

In a letter to new US president Joe Biden (pictured), Live Nation, AEG Presents, Oak View Group, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and others pledge their resources towards the vaccination programme – saying the live industry, whose venues are empty and staff furloughed, is in a “unique position to help”.

Staff are “eager to help out and get back to work”, adds the letter, which is also addressed to Norris Cochran, the acting secretary of health and human services; Dr Rochelle Walensky, the acting director of the Centers for Disease Contro; Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease’s services division; and Bechara Choucair, the White House’s vaccinations coordinator.

“It’s human nature to come together in good times and bad, and our industry is committed to doing everything in our power to bring people together again, not just for events, but for every aspect of community that we have been missing,” says Michael Rapino, president and CEO of Live Nation. “Live Nation has venues across the country that are capable of managing critical onsite elements of the vaccine rollout and we are eager to pitch in and be part of the solution.”

Dayna Frank, CEO of First Avenue Productions and president of NIVA, adds: “Since the pandemic shuttered our industry almost a year ago, our buildings and our co-workers have been paused, unutilised and struggling. These vaccines are our best chance at putting Covid-19 behind us, and our experiences organising events and managing crowds now put us in the unique position of being the best-prepared and most qualified industry to support the vaccination effort and get this country on the road to recovery.”

“We are the best-prepared and most qualified industry to support the vaccination effort and get this country on the road to recovery”

Other organisations offering their help are the International Association of Venue Managers; lighting company Bandit Lites; #WeMakeEvents North America; the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees; theatre industry association Broadway League; the National Independent Talent Organization (NITO); and musical instrument trade body NAMM.

Live venues are already playing a key role in the immunisation process internationally, with concert halls, arena and stadia, and convention and conference centres offering their services as mass-vaccination sites.

Venues are, according to a statement from the group, perfectly suited to doubling as vaccination centres, given that they are designed for queueing and crowd control, located near parking or public transport and have wide, clear interiors, as well as regulated/ticketed entrances and exits.

“The entire live event industry has stood still since March, 2020. We all stand united now, ready to assist in the safe, rapid delivery of the vaccine from a people-moving perspective,” says Bandit Lites chair Michael T. Strickland.

Agent Wayne Forte, president of Entourage Talent Associates and member of NITO’s executive committee, comments: “We are here to help. In fact, many venues are already working on the state and local level to implement vaccine programmes. Our industry owns, leases and/or has access to thousands of venues throughout America, most that are under mandated closures and sitting empty. Event venues make ideal community vaccination sites.”

 


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US election: Venues turn into polling stations

Live Nation has announced plans to use more than 100 of its US venues as polling stations for the American presidential election on 3 November.

The concert giant says it is working with local authorities to examine the feasibility of using Live Nation-owned venues across the country as polling centres, with the Wiltern (1,850-cap.) and Hollywood Palladium (3,800-cap.) in Los Angeles, Emo’s (1,700-cap.) in Austin, Texas, and the Buckhead Theatre (1,800-cap.) in Atlanta already confirmed.

The Fillmore (2,500-cap.) in Philadelphia is in the “final stages of the vetting process”, it adds.

“Core to what we do at Live Nation is helping amplify voices on stage around the world, and supporting voting is another important way we want to continue making voices heard,” comments LN CEO Michael Rapino. “We’re honoured to work with such incredible partners and will do everything in our power to support and empower voter engagement among our employees and the public.”

The LN properties join other venues previously announced as serving as polling stations, including multiple arenas

The company has also partnered with More Than a Vote, a non-profit organisation supporting black voters, and announced it will give its employees paid time off to vote.

The Live Nation properties join other venues previously announced as serving as polling stations, including multiple arenas. They include Madison Square Garden in New York, the Los Angeles Forum, State Farm Arena in Atlanta and Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.

“As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to make mass gatherings difficult, we are excited to partner with New York City’s board of elections,” says Madison Square Garden’s Rich Constable, “and support our community by providing a large-scale venue in the heart of New York City that can accommodate social distancing and serve as a safe place for residents to exercise their right to vote.”

The US presidential election will be held on Tuesday 3 November 2020, pitting incumbent president Donald Trump against Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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