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Save Our Stages Act seeks to aid floundering music venues in pandemic

Brass Hall owners hope for SOS Act passage

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down many independent, live music venues such as Brass Hall in Marble Falls. The Save Our Stages Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), would provide $10 billion in grants to help music venues. Staff photo by Alex Copeland

Norman Lucas believes the Save Our Stages Act would be a lifeline for live music venues.

“It’s very important to us,” said Lucas of Elevated Minds Music Group, which owns Brass Hall in Marble Falls. “If it passes, we’re definitely planning on becoming active in that program because it’s going to at least ensure our survival. Otherwise, we wouldn’t know if we would survive.” 

The U.S. House bill was introduced July 29 by Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

If passed, it would provide $10 billion in grants through the Small Business Administration (SBA) to bolster independent music venues impacted by COVID-19.

Williams represents Texas’ 25th Congressional District, which includes Burnet County. 

“They’re an important part of our culture, and we need to get it back,” Williams said about the music venues. “That’s what this bill does. The fact that it’s bipartisan, I think that means it has a great chance of getting through. It’s an honor to be able to begin this dialogue and clearly save our stages.”

Many small venues have closed during the pandemic, taking a hard financial hit. Even if the doors aren’t open, owners still have expenses 

“A lot of us, we still have ongoing costs like rent, mortgage, insurance, inventory sitting, leases of equipment that are being financed, and the cycle is still going on,” Lucas said. 

The bill would allow live venue operators, producers, promoters, and talent representatives with fewer than 500 employees to apply for and draw up to $12 million in grants.

“No matter what your size is, you’ll be able to take this amount of money that will act like (Paycheck Protection Program) money for Main Street America,” Williams said. “It’ll all be done through the SBA, which will keep it simple. It’s a good opportunity to get them going again.”

Like the Paycheck Protection Program, the SOS Act would help businesses keep full-time staff employed during the COVID-19 crisis.

When the pandemic hit, “one of the first groups of businesses to shut down was the music business, the venue business,” Williams said. “And frankly, they haven’t opened yet. So, you could say that they’re the first to close and the last to open.”

When live music venues are allowed to reopen, it likely will be at a limited capacity, which could hurt places such as Brass Hall. 

“In our business, unfortunately, the circumstances of our business is that we deal with volume, which means we need a lot of people coming out to make a profit,” Lucas said. 

The House bill has companion legislation in the U.S. Senate, co-sponsored by senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) 

“It may sound weird to some other colleagues from other states, but (live music) is part of (Texas) culture,” Williams said. “We need to get our culture back. We need to open up. We need to see baseball. We need to see high school football. We need to see college football.

“We need to save our stages so we can hear and see these great musicians that go through Texas and do great things for our country and our world,” he added.