As independent music venues struggle to keep their heads above water during COVID-19 closures, two staples of Boulder’s live-music scene have found support from a local cannabis company that loves to jam.
Z2 Entertainment, the managing company for Boulder's Fox and Boulder theaters, has laid off close to 100 employees since the pandemic began, according to CEO Cheryl Liguori. After closing doors at both venues on March 13, Z2 continued to pay fixed overhead expenses without ticket sale income, operating at a significant loss. The Boulder Theater is now open on the weekends at 10 percent of normal capacity, while the Fox remains closed, with the earliest concert scheduled for February 2021.
“It was a painful experience for everyone,” Liguori says of the last seven months in an email to Westword.
Covering rent, insurance and utilities without income places many independent concert venues in peril. The National Independent Venue Association, which counts Z2 Entertainment as a member, predicts that 90 percent of independent venues will close permanently by the end of the year if federal financial support does not change. Denver venues such as Le Cour, Armida’s, Live @ Jack’s and 3 Kings Tavern have already closed for good.
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Boulder-based dispensary chain Terrapin Care Station had a working relationship with the Fox and Boulder theaters before the pandemic, and didn't want to see two of its favorite Boulder venues go down. No longer able to host booths at concerts and sponsor events, Terrapin recently donated $25,000 to Z2 venues to help keep the doors open after the pandemic subsides, as well as another $5,000 to local nonprofit Colorado Music Experience.
According to Ligouri, the donation has enabled Z2 to keep on a handful of theater staff and cover some overhead costs.
“One day this will be over, and we’ll be back at live concerts, and we want to make sure that the Fox and Boulder will be there for people when we get back to that,” says Terrapin communications director Peter Marcus.
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Terrapin has a deep history with music for a company barely over ten years old. The dispensaries are named after the Grateful Dead song and album Terrapin Station, and Terrapin owner Chris Woods has rented out the Boulder Theater for concerts to celebrate company anniversaries. Woods also likes to host live music inside Terrapin cannabis cultivations, with bands like Reed Mathis & Electric Beethoven, Brothers Osborne and Lettuce all participating in recorded cannabis jam sessions.
“We’re going to get through this, we always do, and we’re going to figure it out," he concludes. "When we do, we want to make sure that the institutions that were there for people are still there afterwards."