Concertgoers near and wide know Denton to have one of the most thriving and nurturing music scenes around, and Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios has been at the core of it since it first opened its doors in 1997. This year was expected to be no different for the venue in terms of festivals, concerts and community events. But now, less than a year after its highly anticipated reopening under new ownership and management, Rubber Gloves is left twiddling its thumbs, waiting for some kind of COVID-19 financial relief and a way forward.
Stand-alone venues remain shuttered under order of the governor since they do not also function as restaurants, a stipulation for bars to reopen. To meet the requirements to receive funding from the Denton County Open Business Grant Program, businesses must provide proof of need, eligibility, number of employees and losses due to full or partial shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. A list of venues granted aid, released Aug. 19, puts the total at $20 million. Funds have benefited over 1,200 small businesses in Denton County, including several Denton music-centric businesses: Mad World Records (which now operates only online); Recycled Books, Records & CDs; and Armadillo Brewing Company (which hosts live music regularly), to name a few. Club owners and their employees say their requests for aid have been ignored.
“With our business, you couldn't have shown a bigger drop-off,” Chad Withers, general manager of Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, says. “In March, we had festivals scheduled every weekend. We were literally booked through the summer. The first few years are the most important for a business, and we are pretty much a new business ... everything was going good, trajectory-wise, everything was falling in place.”
So far, Withers says the club's production team has been furloughed, although several of their bar staff luckily had other jobs to fall back on. Withers is receiving unemployment benefits but isn't sure what he'll do once they run out.
“With our business, you couldn't have shown a bigger drop-off.” – Chad Withers, general manager of Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios
Earlier this year, Gloves was set to host the first Denton-based Buttsfest (Better Understanding Trash Through Service), with a group of people dedicated to cleaning up Denton's streets and artists from South By Southwest. They were also in talks with Deerhoof for a June show — one Withers says he was particularly looking forward to — and the venue had planned a big Juneteenth celebration. Withers is hopeful, however, that Congress will pass the Save Our Stages Act, which would result in billions of aid to independent venues, and that they will be able to fund operations again.
Susan Davis, CEO at Curious Dog Creative and director of film programming for Thin Line Fest, says Rubber Gloves offers a solid history in Denton, and she's saddened by the lack of aid to venues and other artistic operations. Gloves underwent restorations before its reopening, Davis says, so that the longstanding Denton tradition didn't fade away.
"It was given new life, but that life needs to be supported by the county," she says of Gloves.
Although the club’s doors remained closed for now, Withers says they have no plans on closing for good and are putting enough stuff in place to keep things going, one of them being a drive-in concert and movie event. Earlier this year, Gloves hosted a solo set by Brave Combo’s Carl Finch followed by a screening of David Byrne’s True Stories. On Sept. 28, they’ll host a second drive-in concert with Ten Hand’s frontman and KXT radio host Paul Slavens, with a double feature including Life in Waves and Shock Treatment, the latter of which was shot in Denton as a Rocky Horror Picture Show sequel.
In preparation for an eventual reopening, Withers says they have a fully prepared patio and a full CDC-compliant procedure in place including mask requirements, social distancing measures, contact tracing and no-contact ordering.