A new bill in the House Representatives aims to keep struggling independent music venues afloat during the ongoing pandemic.
Introduced Thursday by Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Mike Kelly (R-PA), the Entertainments New Credit Opportunity for Relief & Economic Sustainability (ENCORES) Act would allow venues to recoup some of the losses they have experienced from issuing ticket refunds for canceled events by providing a tax credit for 50% of the value of those refunded tickets.
To qualify under the proposed legislation, venues must be in the business of promoting, producing or managing live concerts, comedy shows, sporting events and live theatrical productions and have 500 or fewer employees. They must also have first offered a voucher to customers before issuing refunds.
According to a release put out by the office of Rep. Kind, the ENCORES Act was inspired by the Congressman’s constituent — Jason Anderson, executive director of the nonprofit Pablo Center in Eau Claire, Wisconsin — who reached out with concerns over the potentially catastrophic effects of the ongoing shutdown.
“As the first to close and last to open, independent art centers — like the Pablo Center here in Western Wisconsin — across the country are at risk of closing,” said Rep. Kind in a statement. “In this time of such uncertainty and darkness, we cannot allow the light of the arts to go out. I am proud of the work we’ve done to put together a bipartisan proposal to help gems like the Pablo Center continue to thrive when this crisis ends.”
Added Rep. Kelly of the situation in his Pennsylvania district, “Venues across the 16th district are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, including UPMC Park, home of the SeaWolves [Minor League Baseball team], and countless music halls and theaters. These entertainment centers are part of every community’s identity, but state mandates have created financial hardship and put them at risk of permanent closure. The bipartisan legislation Congressman Kind and I introduced today will help these small town cultural centers survive these unprecedented times so they can re-open to hard-working western Pennsylvanians in the future.”
The ENCORES Act arrived just a day after another bill supporting independent venues, the Save Our Stages Act, was introduced by in the Senate by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). That bill — which is notably more generous than the House version — would create a $10 billion Small Business Administration grant program for independent live music venue operators affected by the shutdown. If approved for the grants, venues would receive a full six months of financial support to keep them afloat.
As it did for the Senate bill, on Friday (July 24) the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) released a statement in support of the House legislation.
“Not only do we have no revenue and enormous overhead, it’s much worse,” said Adam Hartke, co-chair of NIVA’s Advocacy Committee and president of Hartke Presents. “When shows were cancelled due to the pandemic, it was like a vacuum cleaner to our bank accounts, causing hundreds of millions in negative revenue at the worst possible time. The ENCORES Act is incredibly helpful to independent, mom and pop venues across America fighting to survive and we’re grateful that Reps. Kind and Kelly are fighting along with us.”
NIVA notes that 90% of venue owners, promoters, and bookers are in danger of permanently closing without additional financial assistance during the pandemic, and that if live events don’t resume until 2021, the industry will lose an estimated $9 billion in ticket sales alone. A recent NIVA study in Chicago also highlighted the impact of permanent venue closures on communities, finding that for every $1 spent on a ticket at a local venue, $12 of economic activity was generated for local businesses such as restaurants, retailers and hotels.
“If Congress passes these pieces of legislation before they leave on August recess, we will be able to return when it’s safe and once again be the economic drivers of our communities,” added NIVA president and First Avenue Production CEO Dayna Frank. “This issue can’t be put on ice for when they return for the next session, it would be too late.”
The ENCORES Act also elicited vocal support from Wisconsin-based artist Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who said in a statement, “Our venues are in grave trouble. Thus, we support Congressman Ron Kind and the State of Wisconsin as they work to protect music venues. With this bill, and once we put the pandemic behind us, there will be new opportunities for us to change and grow together in our sacred venues in the light of music.”
Added Anderson of the Pablo Center, “Congressman Kind has helped these venues, by authoring a crucial piece of lasting legislation, at a most desperate hour and has worked tirelessly to Save-Our-Stages. The threat to these venues remains real, independent venues were among the first to close in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be the last to open, 90% of venues are on the verge of going extinct nationwide. This tax credit is one of the ways Congress is working to ensure these venues are still here to deliver their vital missions and continue to provide transformative entertainment within the communities they serve.”