By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Concert venues across Colorado are hopeful with the passing of a new round of COVID-19 emergency relief funding from Congress as 2020 ends. The year was supposed to be one of the best for the industry but venues are barely surviving, the Save Our Stages Act could be the lifeline they need to get through 2021.

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“Prior to COVID, Levitt like most venues across our state, across the U.S. was really in a position to have their best year ever,” said Chris Zacher, the CEO and founder of Levitt Pavilion Denver and a member of the leadership for the National Independent Venue Association.

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Zacher helped with the response to the coronavirus for the organization and represents Colorado at the national level for the nonprofit. He has also created an affiliated group for independent venues statewide.

He says based on the data available for the first quarter of 2020, all venues were expecting a record-breaking year including outdoor sites like the one he operates in Denver.

“It was just this grass roots effort of people who really weren’t going to sit by and watch their industry collapse,” he said on a video conference call with CBS4 on Tuesday.

(credit: CBS)

The effort to get the S.O.S. Act included in the COVID-19 stimulus had him worried week after week until he learned about the vote by Congress to include this legislation. He says their effort included sending 2 million letters and organizing an online festival in October that separately raised $3 million.

The funding expected in the new relief package will be in the billions, providing venues 45% of their gross revenue from 2019. The type of aid necessary to keep 90% of venues from closing in Colorado because of the pandemic, according to Zacher.

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“Discover new music, dig into our local music scene, buy albums,” he said.

The industry relies on large groups attending and supporting their operations, the ticket sales usually support artists so vendor sales at venues is their larger source of income. This funding would focus on independent venues like Levitt Pavilion, Larimer Lounge, The Oriental, and Globe Hall. Corporate owned venues are not eligible.

Zacher says these smaller clubs are often the places that cultivate the careers of artists, especially early on.

(credit: CBS)

“We want to thank all of the artists and the fans and our congressional leaders for helping us do this,” he said. “This was really, really hard, it was really hard.”

Zacher expects outdoor venues like his could open in June or July and indoor businesses by the end of next year with the rollout of the vaccine. He says the application process could begin in January with the Small Business Association overseeing grants if the bill gets signed by the president on schedule.

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In the meantime, he hopes the community will continue to support venues and artists by buying their merchandise and donating to Dazzle Bread and Jam.

Shawn Chitnis