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Dallas' Kessler Theater is one local venue that will benefit from the save Our Stages Act.
Dallas' Kessler Theater is one local venue that will benefit from the save Our Stages Act.
Mike Brooks

Senate Introduces Save Our Stages Act to Grant Billions in Aid to Venues

On July 29, U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota introduced the Save Our Stages Act in an effort to aid independently operated cultural and music venues affected by COVID-19 shutdowns.

If passed, the act, which is endorsed by the National Independent Venue Association and the National Independent Talent Organization, would provide Small Business Administration grants to music venues, theaters and other venues that rely on crowds in order to operate.

Its purpose, per the Senate’s statement, is to, “direct the SBA to make grants to eligible venues equal to the lesser of either 45 percent of operation costs from calendar year 2019 or $12 million,” and to "permit recipients to use grants for costs incurred during the COVID pandemic.”

Those costs include rent, mortgage and utilities, taxes and other administrative costs.

Local venues have been instrumental in getting the act introduced. The Granada routinely requested patrons support the effort with their signatures. Edwin Cabaniss, owner of the Kessler Theater in North Oak Cliff and chairman of the Music Venue Alliance-Texas, says that he and his fellow "precinct captains" have been "working closely with the entire Texas delegation, to educate them on the details of the bill and advocate for their co-sponsorship.

"With over 800 independent venues, there is no other music scene in the world quite like Texas," Cabaniss says. "We have been culturally diverse and economically significant for over 150 years, yet today we find ourselves on the verge of collapse."

While the national music industry is projected to lose $9 billion this year, the bill would provide $10 billion in funding for six months to independent venues.

In Dallas, cultural institutions have already suffered losses of approximately $34 million. The local creative scene, however, proved its ingenuity by quickly adjusting to changing mandates through new mediums. Drive-in and online entertainment have become a safe, socially distant choice for artists and theater groups, but music venues continue suffering the effects of shutdowns, no matter their efforts to stay afloat through fundraising.

"The government has mandated we remain closed for the greater good of the public," Cabaniss says. "We understand and are complying, but there has to be just compensation. We strongly endorse the Save Our Stages Act as it is the lifeline for our venues."

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