It is nearly impossible to leave the house without seeing the effects of the coronavirus on everyday life. And it's no secret live-events was one of the hardest-hit industries. At some point, concerts will return. But it's uncertain when that will be: next week, in a couple of months, or another year?
In December, the $15 billion Save Our Stages Act included help for live venues and independent theaters. The National Independent Venue Association or NIVA was a large backing force on getting this bill through congress and continues to gather support for venues during the ongoing pandemic. Some venues have started renting out their spaces for group meetings, the large empty concert halls are the perfect size for social distancing. But tragically and almost inevitably, this help was not enough for some. Dozens of independent venues have closed their doors not just for the duration of the pandemic, but forever.
Think of your favorite local venue. When was the last time you saw a performance? How would you feel if you could never walk through its doors again? Not just for the pandemic but forever. Below are just a few accounts of venues whose history has been cut short. These stories are mirrored in the demise of local venues around the globe.
A fundamental piece of San Francisco's nightlife, Slim’s operated on 11th street for 30 years, opening in 1988. Owned by musician Boz Scaggs, the venue had a capacity of 500-people. Due to the mid-range size, it was ideal to host both up-and-coming acts, often helping them get a big break, and intimate concerts by big named artists.
Stars like Radiohead, Beck, and Sheryl Crow made their San Francisco debut in this space. People witness and cheered along to acts from Pearl Jam to Snoop Dogg to Keanu Reeves’ Dogstar, and a private concert from David Bowie's hard rock project, Tin Machine. Slim's announced it will be closed indefinitely back in March 2020. But have no fear Scaggs moved the Slim's staff to Slim's sister venue the Great American with a 600-person capacity that will open its doors again.
U Street Music Hall
A celebrated electronic music venue in the nation’s capital, U Street Music Hall, was known for its sound system optimized for electronic dance music, it hosted acts such as Diplo and Disclosure. Despite a letter campaign to Washington D.C.'s Mayor Muriel Bowser in June asking for financial aid, and a host of merchandise sales, and independent artist live streams, by October 2020 the Venue announced it could no longer afford to keep its doors open.
The venue posted a statement about the decision to close after reaching dire financial levels. “It's hard to take a step back at a moment like this and it hurts to say goodbye to our basement home on 1115 U Street, but the memories we created there will stay with us forever. We hope they will with you, too.”
With an iconic boombox looking storefront, the Music Room was a hip-hop centered underground music and dance venue in Atlanta, Georgia. This venue is notable for the hidden speakeasy attached. When the health crisis began the bar and attached restaurant remained open for takeout. The venue also got creative and offered weekly live music and DJ sessions via Twitch. But in the end owner Keiran Neely (DJ Keiran) had to close The Music Room, the speakeasy, and the connected barbecue joint.
A September tweet was the gravestone of this vaudeville theatre on the South Side of Pittsburgh. Rex Theatre was a host to electronic, indie, and local bands. Unable to host shows since March the venue announced it’s closing its doors “due to the ongoing hardship and uncertain future caused by the Covid pandemic.” They continued “We want to thank everyone who’s come to a show, everyone’s who’s played a show, everyone who has worked in ways big and small and helped us make this crazy dream a reality.”
No longer will the neon yellow and blue sign light up North Lamar. The restaurant opened for take-out and delivery for just three days. This community hot spot started as a gas station and bar in 1933 by Kenneth Threadgill, hence the name; the live music portion was added in the 70s. The venue saw a variety of local performers, including a University of Texas student Janis Joplin.
The Austin Chronicle reported that owner Eddie Wilson is working to sell the building, and plans to hold an auction of all the memorabilia and decor of the establishment. The auction is a way to buy himself out of debt and give the community a chance to get their hands on a piece of Austin history. Wilson also says despite plans to sell the building, he hopes the Austin Museum of Popular Culture, which found its home on Threadgill's property last year, will be able to remain for as long as possible.
Unfortunately, all the places in this article have closed. But it serves as a warning, that to ensure there is a local community to go back to post-pandemic, we can all chip into supporting local businesses by ordering take-out, purchasing tickets to live streams, and have a fun