Deep Ellum Legislative Call to Action for COVID Relief

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While we are grateful Congress responded swiftly to enact the first Paycheck Protection Program, most businesses able to utilize the program have since depleted that important source of funding, their savings have also run out, and community-supported fundraising efforts to keep local establishments alive have been exhausted as the pandemic continues to rage in regions like North Texas. Immediate relief is needed or many of our small businesses and independent venues that are the lifeblood of districts like Deep Ellum may not survive to 2021.

We ask you to support three important measures to help this important cultural center and business community survive:

·       Save our Stages Act (S.4258) sponsored by Senator Cornyn and Senator Klobuchar, and the Restart Act (S.3814, H.R.7481) sponsored by Senator Bennet, Senator Young and Representative Golden.

·       Restaurants Act (S. 4012, H.R.7197), sponsored by Senator Wicker and Representative Blumenauer.

·       Refund6point7, a homegrown campaign to provide relief to bars by refunding the State of Texas’ 6.7% mixed beverage tax for one year prior to March 2020.

Deep Ellum is one of the most historically significant neighborhoods in North Texas and serves as both the inspiration and launching pad for artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and many independent businesses. A mere 0.5 square miles, the district is home to over 400 businesses today. The neighborhood is the premier entertainment district in the North Texas region, generating approximately $10 million in alcohol sales tax revenue per year alone. A cornerstone of the City’s tourism industry, this cultural magnet consistently attracts both Texans and tourist from around the world. The district hosted approximately 1.2 million unique visitors in 2019. Thanks in large part to its rich arts, entertainment, and food and beverage offerings, Deep Ellum has also been leading the Central Business District in new office and residential development. The district has attracted firms nationwide while multifamily units have expanded by more than 75 percent between 2018 and 2020 alone. In just the last five years, the Deep Ellum district doubled property tax contributions to our City, County and school districts, adding more than $10 million annually during that time period.  Simply put, Deep Ellum’s future trajectory is integrally tied to the overall success of Dallas. What impacts Deep Ellum has ripple effects upon the entire city and region. Moreover, this economic and cultural hub is a bellwether for arts, food and beverage, and entertainment districts across the country. 

The lifeblood of Deep Ellum – our business community and especially our independent businesses –is under threat.  Business owners who have been operating for over 20 years and more recent entrepreneurs alike agree this is the most challenging time they have ever faced doing business in our district. COVID-19 has shuttered local restaurants, bars, galleries, theaters, live music venues and other small and independent businesses who rely upon them. Many have only been able to reopen their doors briefly since March 2020, if at all. According to the National Independent Venue Association, most live performance venues expect to be closed well into 2021 due to safety concerns and 90 percent say they will be forced to close for good if Congress does not act soon. The Independent Restaurant Coalition anticipates 85 percent of independent restaurants could close permanently.  We have already begun to see some of those closures in Deep Ellum.

Deep Ellum’s businesses have contributed an outsize share to the local economy and tax base but their influence goes way beyond generating revenues for federal, state and local governments. They have created jobs, spurred development and, most importantly, together they’ve created the region’s premier destination for experiencing art and culture on a daily basis. One study estimated that every dollar spent at a small performance venue resulted in $12 in economic activity for neighboring restaurant, retail and hospitality businesses.  This symbiotic relationship between performance venues, bars, restaurants, shops and the myriad other businesses and patrons who benefit from them is how districts like Deep Ellum have come to thrive, becoming a magnet for residents, developers and tourists alike. Deep Ellum has always been a collaborative community and an entrepreneurial stronghold. Our businesses are innovative and have mustered tremendous creativity to continue to operate and serve the region. Since the pandemic began, many have fed our frontline workers including for free or significantly reduced costs. Our businesses have produced virtual shows, programming and artworks to provide respite and inspiration for a weary public. Now, we need your help to continue to serve our community and so many surrounding communities. Deep Ellum is often called the soul of Dallas and the need for such places that serve as home for the arts, culture and entertainment has never been clearer.

Together, we ask you for your immediate advocacy to support our Deep Ellum businesses and advance these three important measures that will keep Deep Ellum’s vital business community afloat. Save Our Stages and the Restart Act target relief to the small and independent businesses hit hardest by the pandemic and will provide longer term loans and greater flexibility to use allocated funds for our performance venues especially. The Restaurants Act is specifically targeted toward small restaurants and bars and the revitalization fund it will create is estimated to generate over $270 billion in economic returns. Refund6point7 is a straightforward step the State of Texas can take to provide relief to one of the few industries it has required to remain shuttered, the bars and entertainment industry, by rebating the mixed beverages tax to this group which contributes an outsize share to the tax base annually.

We thank you for your service and, in advance, for your support.