It’s the time of year when Brian Jarvis at Tidball’s and Larry Deaton at The Warehouse at Mt. Victor would normally be welcoming an eclectic mix of musicians to those live-music venues.
Americana, country, rock and other genres should be rattling the walls as aspiring local artists and a few marquee names entertain appreciative crowds.
But those venues and others are silent these days.
Owners pummeled by the social distancing restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic are left singing the blues.
“It’s been killing us,” said Deaton, who has owned The Warehouse venue near Lovers Lane for 11 years. “We were the first to have to close, and we’ll probably be the last to reopen.”
Deaton said music venues like his were shut down March 10 and have no certain date for reopening. While manufacturers, retailers, restaurants and other businesses have been given timetables and guidelines for their restarts in the first two phases of Gov. Andy Beshear’s “Healthy at Work” plan, music venues are lumped in with bars in a third phase that won’t begin until sometime in July.
That long wait to welcome back musicians and their fans has hit a sour note with Deaton, who said 14 private events and seven live shows scheduled at The Warehouse have been canceled.
Deaton, who has laid off three employees, estimates the lost revenue at close to $50,000. So far, the only help he has received through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act has been a $7,200 payment.
“That’s what they said we qualified for,” he said.
Like Deaton, Jarvis and the Tidball’s venue he co-owns with John Tidball have been struggling, and he said that has an impact beyond the revenue he has lost.
“These venues stimulate the local economy,” Jarvis said. “On those nights when we have big bands coming in, downtown is hopping and the restaurants are busy.”
Jarvis said the forced shutdown of venues such as Tidball’s near Chestnut Street is taking a toll on local bands like the Josephines and Fat Box.
“A lot of them are traveling musicians,” Jarvis said. “This (playing live shows) is how they make their living.”
Working with Bowling Green’s Yellowberri video production company, Jarvis has been able to keep many of the local musicians active by producing virtual concerts that are shown on Tidball’s Facebook page. Viewers can make donations online, but the revenue is a fraction of what Tidball’s and the bands would normally get.
Because of the financial hit they’re taking, Jarvis and Deaton have joined the newly formed National Independent Venue Association, an organization of about 1,300 venues and promoters throughout the nation that is working to get financial relief for these small businesses.
In a letter explaining the role of the NIVA, Jarvis and Deaton said venues like theirs have no way to alter their operations to continue operating while observing social distancing.
“Unlike restaurants, hardware, grocery and liquor stores, venues have no way to pivot to serve our community,” they said in the letter. “There is no ‘contactless’ version of live music or ‘take-out’ way to offer the nightlife and entertainment our venues provide.”
Jarvis and Deaton said the NIVA is requesting federal support that specifically addresses the needs of independent venues and nightlife establishments and will help them survive until they are able to safely open again at full capacity.
“I would like to see some type of funding or, if not, some recognition of what we’re going through,” said Jarvis, who has been co-owner of Tidball’s for 18 years.
He pointed to the recent closing of the Shots downtown bar -- which was followed quickly by the closing of Rocky's Bar on East Main Street -- as an example of what could happen to the venues if they don’t get some financial assistance.
“There are going to be more (closures),” Jarvis said. “There’s no way around it.
“People have donated stuff to us and donated money. If it wasn’t for the community taking us under their wing, I don’t know how we’d make it.”