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Omaha concert venues call for help as pandemic continues

Published: Jul. 17, 2020 at 9:24 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Independent venues across the country have had to permanently close due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some Omaha venues hope they’re still around to welcome your favorite artist the next time they’re in town—but that may not happen until next year.

“This is a really lonely place when it’s dark like this,” Slowdown owner Jason Kulbel said.

He remembers one night last March loud and clear.

“Our last show was on the 13th, and since then, we really have been doing nothing, we rely so much on touring bands touring shows,” Kulbel said.

Since then, venues across the country have canceled concerts left and right. A survey from NIVA reports 90 percent of independent venues fear they will permanently close in a few months if they don’t receive help.

Current Paycheck Protection Program funding won’t solve the problem—but something else might help.

NIVA (National Independent Venue Association) is spreading the message to save stages by writing to local lawmakers to respond to the issue.

Artists from Earth, Wind and Fire to Billie Eilish have written letters to elected officials like Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi to support the RESTART Act.

The act would finance six months’ worth of payroll and allow flexible loan use and forgiveness while implementing a payback schedule.

“Beyond the lobbying effort, it’s just great to have all of those pure venues in the same circle and talking about the same things, emails— there’s weekly town halls, calls, things like that if you’re struggling for a way to get through this,” Kulbel said.

Venues like The Slowdown were the first to close and will likely be the last to fully reopen. Kulbel says when his downtown business reopens, it could look different.

“It’s not going to be anything like you remember it being,” Kulbel said. “You want to go to a show like you went to in December when it was a party and beers and you know it’s all fun. It’s going to be strange for a while, for sure.”

NIVA says it has sent more than 1 million emails reaching all 538 members of Congress.

The association also says both Democrats and Republicans have been looking into the RESTART Act.

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