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Neumos in Seattle, in a Pandemic: People Have Already Been ‘Caught Lying’ for Venue Grants

As co-owner of Seattle’s popular independent venue Neumos in Capitol Hill, Steven Severin has been a staple in the Seattle music industry for more than 20 years. Roughly 10 years ago, he helped create the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association to bring together the area’s live event insiders, and for the past 16 years has helped run Neumos with its sister club Barboza and the accompanying Runaway bar.

As part of Billboard’s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we will be speaking with Severin regularly to chronicle his experience throughout the crisis. (Read the last installment here and see the full series here.)

Did you see senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wearing his Save Our Stages mask at President Biden’s inauguration?

The picture of uncle Chuck wearing the Save Our Stages mask… I just. I watched Amanda Gorman and that, of course, got me a little teary. Then I saw the picture of Schumer and I just broke. I sobbed. The work that we have been doing, he is wearing on his face. I remember being on the phone call when we were talking about what our slogan would be that would encompass everything because we had been using “Save Our Venues” in Washington and we decided that wasn’t quite it for what we wanted to do nationally. To think of the amount of time and work and stress that we put in and then to see the majority leader wearing our slogan on his mask… It doesn’t compute. I know we did. I know how we did and I know how we worked really hard, but so many people do that and they get nowhere. We stepped in and nailed it. 

The Small Business Administration still hasn’t open up applications for the SOS grant. What have you been doing with NIVA to prepare?

We have a giant list of music venues that we’ve been working with. A lot of what we’ve done is compared that to the actual NIVA members to make sure that everybody knows about each other. I’ve emailed everybody I haven’t already been talking with to make sure they are members of NIVA so they can get the newsletters that have all the information. The newsletters are everything. Then we are talking with subgroups to make sure that, for instance, jazz venues know about the SOS grants. It’s a lot of emails with “this is what we do, here’s our links, become a member, if you know other people send this to them.” We want to make sure that everybody who wants to can apply for grants.

Has it been a successful process so far?

So much of it has been what counts as a venue and who is lying. There’s already people who have been caught lying. It’s like, come on. Everybody is going to check. People are going to check and make sure you really are a venue.

Whose job will it be to figure out if places are actual venues?

That’s SBA’s [Small Business Administration] job. But it has happened with NIVA and WANMA [Washington Nightlife Music Association]. We have a board that is checking for the WANMA to make sure that if you say you do this, you actually do this. There is somebody in particular that tried to slide something through and people caught it. We looked at their website. They were a wedding venue. Show me where there was a live show, let alone three times a week. That’s a requirement for both SOS Act and Keep Music Live grants. NIVA helped the SBA figure out what the requirements should be.

Has WANMA opened its Keep Music Live grants already?

In Washington, we just announced our first grants for the Keep Music Live campaign that we have been doing since October. Me and Craig Jewell who owns The Wild Buffalo have been reaching out and making sure that every venue in the state knows it is happening. There are all kinds of places that don’t know what we’re doing because they are in some small town in eastern Washington. The grants will help them between now and when they might get SOS money. It’s awesome to think about what we are able to do just locally in our state. We’re getting it out to people finally. It’s another thing that helps reinvigorate you. We are going to get hundreds of thousands of dollars off to people. 


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