While the “dance of legislation” continues in our nation’s capital, entertainment venue owners say that their future is bleak without passage of the latest federal coronavirus stimulus bill.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are trying to negotiate an agreement to infuse the economy with more federal aid.
Within the past month, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–Brooklyn) and Congressman Thomas Suozzi (D–Glen Cove) appeared at Long Island venues to plead for the enactment of the HEROES Act 2.0, passed by the Democratic majority in the House last month.
Schumer was at Mulcahy’s Pub in Wantagh, joined by, among others, Taking Back Sunday’s Shaun Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult’s Alan Bouchard and Michael DelGuidice of Billy Joel’s band.
Part of the stimulus bill is a “Save our Stages” or “SOS” Act that would create a $10 billion Small Business Administration (SBA) program to provide grants to eligible live venue operators, producers, promoters and talent representatives to help cover six months of operating expenses and offset the economic impact of COVID-19.
In a press release, Schumer said, “Long Island would see a lion’s share of this federal pot of funds because of its proximity to the city.”
“We have got to rock and roll on a plan that keeps Long Island’s music and other live venues—along with the local economy—in tune, and this plan will help,” Schumer added. “Independent venues, like those hosted by Mulcahy’s Pub, other concert halls, pubs and more, are the beating heart of Long Island’s cultural life and a driving force of the larger New York economy. These local businesses were among the first to shut down at the start of the pandemic, are struggling to stay afloat, and will be among the last to reopen.”
Though Governor Andrew Cuomo has allowed movie theaters to reopen, he has yet to do so for live concert halls.
According to Schumer, a survey of National Independent Venue Association members “found that 90 percent of independent venues report that they will have to close permanently without federal funding.”
The pandemic economy has already shuttered Revolution Bar & Music Hall in Amityville, which closed in September.
Long Island’s Tourism Bureau reported that tourism is valued at $5.9 billion and generates more than $725 million in state and local taxes.
In a press release, Schumer said “that the independent theaters on Long Island are a cornerstone of the tourism industry and that losing them would be a massive blow to Long Island’s local economy.”
In addition, live shows provide up to 75 percent of musical artists’ income.
Earlier this month, Suozzi visited the Paramount and was joined by owners and directors of some of Long Island’s prominent entertainment places.
“Independently owned live entertainment venues, as well as musicians, actors, comedians, promoters, stagehands and the local restaurants that count on the business that these venues bring in, have been financially devastated by the pandemic. We are urging the Senate to act on this legislation now. If not, many of our beloved venues might not survive. We can’t let the music die,” Suozzi said.
“Remember every $1 spent on a ticket is worth $12 to other businesses in the local community,” said Dom Catoggio, Jim Condron, Stephen Ubertini and Brian Doyle, owners of the Paramount “We were the first industry to close and will be the last to reopen. Music and entertainment can act as a beacon of light and hope during these tough times. Hesitating is not an option—without the legislation an entire American industry that benefits millions is in imminent jeopardy—so please Save Our Stages.”
Laura Mogul, executive director of Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington, said, “We need to prepare for the ‘new normal’ so we can continue to fulfill our mission. We need funding to support large capital expenditures to bring our ventilation system to code. And we must purchase technology that will allow us to livestream our programs until we can reopen.”
“This pandemic is an existential threat to the performing arts industry both regionally and nationally,” said Bill Biddle, executive director of the Tilles Center in Brookville. “The economic impact is wide-ranging, and the result of darkened theaters affects many outside of the arts as well. I applaud Congressman Suozzi’s support and leadership of the Save Our Stages bill and urge the Senate to pass this crucial bill for our industry.”
“The John Engeman Theater has been closed since March 2020 and will, in all likelihood, be closed for 18 months with zero revenue. I applaud Congressman Suozzi for his listening, outreach, and efforts to work across party lines to get this done,” said Kevin O’Neill, owner of the Northport-based theater.
“We cannot—and we must not—let the curtain close on Long Island’s live venues. I will fight tooth and nail here because the shows must go on,” Schumer concluded.
Representatives from The Space at Westbury and the Theatre at Westbury didn’t respond when reached for comment.
On Oct. 17, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that “beginning Oct. 23, movie theaters outside of New York City will be allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity with up to 50 people maximum per screen. Areas that are below 2 percent on their 14-day average and have no cluster zones. So, this will be Long Island—Nassau, Suffolk.”
Already, big chains with a presence on Long Island have announced plans to open their doors.
These include Showcase Cinemas, with locations in Hicksville (Broadway) and Farmingdale; AMC Cinemas (Westbury, Roosevelt Field, Levittown and Glen Cove); and Regal (Westbury).
All will require masks and social distancing, as well as ticket reservations.
In a press release, Showcase announced tickets and private screenings are available for The Empty Man, Tenet, Honest Thief, The New Mutants, The War With Grandpa, Unhinged and Halloween classics.
In press releases, the chains indicated that they will screen employees before they can work, do extensive sanitizing in between shows and introduce other health and safety protocols. These include enhanced air purifying systems.