Local indy music venues are getting left out of coronavirus reopening plans

The Bright Light Social Hour

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by Joshua Holton / WMNF

Monday marked phase one of a coronavirus reopening strategy announced last week by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Retail stores, restaurants, museums, and libraries can reopen at 25% capacity.

But one major business that remains notably absent from everyone’s daily lives is the music business.

Tom DeGeorge is the owner of the Crowbar, and posted on social media Monday, “first to close, last to reopen.”

With the threat of COVID-19 spreading even more than it already has, DeGeorge isn’t asking people to go out in large numbers just yet, “we don’t we don’t need to risk people’s lives, but at the same time, the money that’s coming in from the government then needs to go to the people that need it most.”

Because even as some restaurants may reopen, eyes will be on social distancing, as increasing scrutiny is placed on businesses operating safely.

“Certain businesses I’m positive will also be shamed because they’re reopening. This is a problem. You know, we need to fix it because like I said, it’s also not fair for these businesses to suffer all by themselves being shut down without a choice. And the government’s not stepping in to pay their bills. a moratorium needs to be put on rent and mortgages. So we can freeze this thing for a proper period of time, while they figure out what the solution is, you know, but if they don’t, all that’s gonna happen is people are gonna go out of business.”

The Small Business Administration has issued two rounds of a Paycheck Protection Program loan program. Many small businesses lost out on the first round of funding as banks made billions in processing fees while selectively lending to businesses with a prior relationship to the bank.

Some larger franchises took millions. And Tom White, the owner of Skipper’s Smokehouse says they never would have returned it if they weren’t publicly lambasted.

“Well, we all know what happened last time Ruth’s Chris, Shake Shack and in Harvard, all these other freakin people that didn’t shouldn’t have been getting this money, you know, got all of our money, you know, for the small businesses, you know, the small independent people. So some people got it and it seems like the people with the smaller banks and more community banks, they seem to have a higher percentage of receiving that. That first wave of PPP funding,”

Both Skipper’s Smokehouse and The Crowbar have been the host of hundreds of independent artists over the years, and DeGeorge says that if people value the existence of these venues, they should lobby their local elected officials.

“Because the whole thing is these people base their decisions are what they think will get them reelected. So if enough people speak up and let them know They are furious. And that what is being done as a terrible injustice that should not occur. And that what has happened so far has been a terrible injustice. That should have never happened but it has to stop now, or else, it’s going to be a big deal. And heads are going to run and people are not going to get voted back in.”

DeGeorge had an initial conversation with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor last Friday and is working with the National Independent Venue Association to appeal to Congress. Among their demands are higher loan caps, deferred debt, and tax relief as live music venues across the country try to keep the lights on, the rent satisfied, and employees paid.

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