By Jamie Leary

DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado’s music venues were some of the first to shutter at the beginning of the pandemic, and now are some of the business to re-open. Many are barely hanging on but thanks to a new grant program, Colorado’s music scene can get back to doing what it does best.

“This is not just about helping small businesses remain open and get back to business, but really, it’s about redefining Colorado’s momentum and reigniting Colorado’s momentum as really one of the center places in the country of live music and food and hospitality,” said U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper.

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On April 8, applications for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program will open. The program, which was expanded by the American Rescue Plan, will help save independent venues by providing relief equal to 45% of pre-pandemic revenue or up to $10 million.

“We see a structure that’s been damaged but its gonna come back and it’s gonna come back in a big way, and the folks on this stage have played a big part in that,” said Hickenlooper.

On Tuesday, at an empty Levitt Pavilions, Hickenlooper gathered some of the top names in the Colorado music industry to talk about the impacts of the pandemic and how the support will help.

“The Shuttered Venue grant will allow us to bring our employees back on the facility, get these bands back on stage get everyone back on payroll and living the life that they want to live,” said Andy Bercaw, Owner of Denver’s Oriental Theater.

Bercaw was one of six people invited to discuss the grant on Tuesday. Everyone present had a similar story; all said they were barely hanging on.

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“We’re losing a little bit less money every month and right now, I’ll take it,” said Bercaw.

The grant money will help venue owners across the nation, but in Colorado, the industry supports more jobs than many other states and the impact of the aid will have a trickle down effect.

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“It’s the people in the front of the house, it’s the people in the back of the house and the servers and the bartenders. Just everybody that contributes to what makes Colorado’s music economy the third largest driver in the state,” said Erica Brown, a Denver Blues Singer.

The money will impact venues and gig workers directly, but it will also help businesses keep prices reasonable.

“I heard some people talking about Red Rocks opening back up and $400 tickets, $500 tickets. It’s one thing that we have to be really careful of in this industry that, as we reopen, it’s not just an elitist thing. You know, music is about a community as a whole and about everybody who lives here, and this is one venue that makes sure that we do that,” said Chris Zacher, Executive Director of Levitt Pavilion and Colorado Independent Venue Association Chair.

“This is a moment of tremendous excitement and I think it begins to show us that that’s the way home,” said Hickenlooper.

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The application process will open April 8, but venues can begin applying now.

Jamie Leary