Save The Big 4 Iconic West Virginia Music Venues
Save The Big 4 Iconic West Virginia Music Venues
The state of West Virginia is a diamond in the rough when it comes to producing musical talent and live events. There are some incredible musicians that were bred from The Mountain State and there are some equally incredible venues that offered these musicians a home to hone these talents.
West Virginia is home to four iconic music venues that have been serving four different areas of the state for over two decades each. 123 Pleasant Street (Morgantown), The V Club (Huntington), and The Purple Fiddle (Thomas) have all been in operation for just over twenty years; while the Empty Glass in Charleston celebrated 35 years in 2020. These venues all closed their doors on March 13th, 2020 and still to this day these music venues are operating without live music. Venues employ more than musicians with a staff often having box office, stage hands, security, bar tenders, bar backs, merch vendors, promoters, sound engineers, and lighting designers. There is a long list of people out of work.
These venues are also not just music venues with employees, but they also serve as community centers. These venues all have owners who share the same passion for their respective community and thrive on bringing all types of people together to enjoy the best of what West Virginia has to offer in live art & entertainment culture. Business wise, music venues like these have been in the red more often than the black, and even before the pandemic faced the same volatile struggles of keeping the doors open. If the doors close then thousands of musicians, comedians, visual artists, dancers, poets, charity groups, etc… lose the place to express their creativity and art. This should be looked at the same way as if a local sports team lost their gymnasium or field. These owners' margins are so thin that they rely on their other local small businesses to be profitable just to support the bad years from the venue. These venue owners are invested too deeply into the community they don’t have the heart to walk away and close their doors. These venue owners need help from somewhere or they may not have a choice. If West Virginia loses any one of these venues it will be another huge blow to the local economies each venue is located in.
The recent Stimulus Relief Package included a 15 Billion dollar Shuddered Venues Grant to help venues exactly like these four. The package was also recognized and supported by both West Virginia Senators Manchin and Moore-Capitol via email correspondence sent to West Virginia Bands Together. SBA's Office of Disaster Assistance is working with the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) to disperse the funds across the country to shuddered venues, restaurants, zoos, theaters, and more. The music industry was one of the focus points of the bill, but unfortunately West Virginia will get left behind like always on the National level. The grant also does not allow venue operators to apply if they receive the PPP loan and the application process runs simultaneously forcing owners to choose one or the other. There is zero confidence across the board with the four venues that the current administration will award any of them any part of the grant. It is well believed that the money will be well spent on places like NYC theaters, San Diego Zoo, and larger high profile places who are eligible to receive up to 10 million in grant awards.
West Virginia Bands Together is requesting for our Governor to finally band with musicians and help save not only these venues, but our statewide music communities. If just one of these businesses fails it stunts the growth of our music and arts community for years and sends our dollars to out of state venues, hotels, restaurants, etc.. Former President Trump had given the state Governors the power to decide where the Cares Act Money goes and your constituents are very supportive about helping these venues survive.
The venues have received PPP loans which were exhausted pretty quickly. While the doors are closed these venues still pay insurance, liquor license, electricity, cable, phones, heat, water, and have no source of income other than the low capacity bar.
John Bright (The Purple Fiddle) LJ Guliani (123 Pleasant Street) , Patrick Guthrie(The V Club) , and Chris Chaber (The Empty Glass) have made very little profits in their venues for over 20 years each. They have created jobs, learning, and community opportunities to their towns and cities all out of personal passion. They have all spearheaded numerous charity events for all walks of life in West Virginia and they deserve for the state to appropriate some of this Cares Act money to what it was actually intended for, which was helping the people of the state. These small business owners are too humble to reach out their hands and will simply put their heads down and take it on the chin, but continue to find a way to keep the doors open for the community. These owners have other businesses to rely on they can use to keep these venues open, but they shouldn't be overlooked for grants on these businesses because they have been successful in others.
West Virginia Bands Together is pleading on behalf of these venues for you, Governor Justice, to award a grant of $100,000.00 to be divided equally to each of the four venues as part of the Shuttered Venues Act. The 25k each would guarantee these venues would make it out of the pandemic alive. These funds would go immediately into covering lost revenue, wages, deposits, inventory, and future operations. This would be a monumental effort by you and your administration to show that you do care about the music, arts, and entertainment industry in West Virginia. The consensus across the board is that we are the forgotten community during this whole pandemic. Closing the music world down for 7 months while all other 49 states allowed musicians to work was something that did not sit well with myself and thousands like me across the state.
We do understand this could create an issue for other venues to ask for a grant, but if the stipulation would be that your venue had to have X amount of dollars come from ticket sales vs bar sales that would give the term “music venue” a meaning. You also could stipulate 10 years or even 20 years of business, which again would only qualify the big four venues. There aren’t really any other venues that are not attached to Resorts, Casinos, Breweries that have served the communities like these venues have anyways.
We almost have our music back , so please help us ensure we have venues to showcase it when it does return. This would be an incredibly positive gesture the music & arts community would recognize you for and would overshadow the harshness of Executive Order 56-20 that hurt so many working West Virginians. Our next step is to get signed petitions of thousands of West Virginians who support this Shuttered Venue Request in order to save their beloved community treasure.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Adam Payne - Organizer of West Virginia Bands Together