Op-Ed: Independent Venues Risk Closing. Here's How You Can Help!

Levitt Pavilion Denver is part of the National Independent Venue Association.EXPAND
Levitt Pavilion Denver is part of the National Independent Venue Association.
Joel Rekiel
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Shutdown. Postponed. Canceled. Indefinite. Uncertain.

As Colorado’s top independent music venues, promoters and music festivals fight for survival amid closures due to COVID-19, these words — and everything they have come to mean for us in these unprecedented times — have become the frightening new normal.

Our independent, small- to mid-sized venues and promoters, the ones that work hard to keep our vibrant local music scene alive, were the first to close and will likely be the last to reopen.

The pandemic brought our operations to a screeching halt, and the continued impact threatens our very existence. The complete and sudden shutdown is a devastating blow, with revenues completely diminished while overhead costs like rent, mortgage, utilities, taxes and insurance responsibilities remain. Pollstar estimates a $9 billion loss in ticket sales alone (not counting food and beverage revenue) if venues remain closed through the end of 2020. Without immediate financial assistance, several cities estimate that 90 percent of their locally- owned and -operated venues will never open again.

We desperately hope ours will not be one of those cities.

To help prevent this, we have come together as part of the newly established National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) with one primary goal: To preserve the music ecosystem in our local communities. We play a vital role in our towns’ and neighborhoods’ economy and culture.

Unlike restaurants, hardware, grocery and liquor stores, venues have no way to pivot to serve our community. There is no “contactless” version of live music or “take-out” way to offer the nightlife and entertainment our venues provide.

The livelihoods of a diverse ecosystem of venue staff have been lost — employees like security, bar, production and box-office workers, as well as the artists who play their stages, are struggling. Surrounding businesses are also losing out on revenue normally gained from fans traveling to the area for shows including restaurants, cafes, retail establishments, hotels and developers. Studies have shown that for every dollar spent at a small venue, $12 of economic activity is generated.

In this perilous time, this is about more than just survival — it’s about returning to be the economic generators, culture providers and community leaders that we have always been. Coloradans deserve as much.

Large, national companies are enjoying the benefits of cash infusions from Wall Street, while mom-and-pop independent venues — the heart and soul of our communities — are in urgent need of help. Many of the stipulations around relief funds deem them meaningless to music venues and promoters, and this is why NIVA, which is now comprised of more than 1,300 venues and promoters from all fifty states and Washington, D.C., is requesting federal support that specifically addresses the needs of independent venues and nightlife establishments; support that will hold us over until we are able to safely open again at full capacity.

Together, we can add one word to that initial list: Resilience. With your assistance, we will come back stronger than ever.

How can you help? Contact your elected representatives to ensure we have the financial support needed to weather this storm until we’re able to reopen and gather together once more. We need your voice today, so we can sing together again tomorrow. Taking action is easy and takes less than a minute: Visit Save Our Stages for more information on how to contact your legislators.

Help us survive, so we can once again thrive. We look forward to welcoming you through our doors once again.


10 Mile Music Hall
Aggie Theatre
Animas Theatre City
Antero Hall @ Eck's Saloon
Belly Up
Boulder Theater
Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom
Dazzle Denver
Fox Theatre
Gerald Ford Amphitheater
Knew Conscious Collective
Levitt Pavilion Denver
Mishwaka Amphitheatre
Ophelia's Electric Soapbox
Seventh Circle Music Collective
Red Rocks
Soiled Dove Underground
Soul Rebel Festival
Sunshine Studios Live
Tennyson's Tap
The Armory
The Black Box
The Black Sheep
The Caribou Room
The Oriental Theater
The Walnut Room
Villar Performing Arts Center
Wild Horse Saloon
Z2 Entertainment

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


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