We said it before, we said it again, and we’ll say it again: independent music venues in Wisconsin are in trouble. These businesses were among the first to close in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they’ll likely be among the last to reopen—if they reopen at all.

So what to do? Lead in part by Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater Group, The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has already been created to pressure the federal government for assistance via the Restart and Save Our Stages acts; now, a petition is asking Gov. Tony Evers “to allocate dedicated money from the remaining funds provided from the CARES Act to support independent live entertainment venues in the state.”

Want to sign the petition? Click HERE. Want to learn a little more about the effort? From the petition:

We are asking Governor Evers to consider Wisconsin Live Entertainment Grants that other states like Montana (and over a dozen other markets have also committed to):

• The Live Entertainment Grant Program would be available to Wisconsin based businesses that are engaged in the business of live entertainment, and whose revenues primarily come from live entertainment events

• To be eligible, businesses must have either derived at least 50% of their 2019 revenue from the sale of tickets for live events or must be businesses that are directly reliant on ticketed live entertainment events

• Grant funds could be used for operations, payroll, rent or mortgage, utilities, and other business expenses other than property taxes

• The grant would be the lesser of, 25% of 2019 gross revenue or 1 million dollars

• The projected cost of this program is under $10 million dollars (and would very likely help the venue in your town stay alive!)

“It will take just 20 seconds of your day and you just might help SAVE your city’s independent concert venues,” reads the petition. So click and sign away, Milwaukee. Here’s a full press release:

The Pabst Theater Group and many other Wisconsin venues call on Governor Evers to allocate dedicated money from the remaining funds provided from the CARES Act to support independent live entertainment venues in the state. Most venues have lost nearly 100% of their revenue since the pandemic forced them to close their doors in March. With their business depending on national artist tours (most postponed until 2021) and large-scale public gatherings, Wisconsin’s live entertainment industry won’t survive the pandemic without additional funding.

Citing the efforts of other states, including Oregon, Washington, Texas, Tennessee and, most impressively, Montana (offering substantial relief money through two generous grants for live entertainment venues and small businesses), Wisconsin venues are asking for similar support to preserve economies and the integrity of arts and culture in the state.

“We’re staring down a harsh inevitability for venues like ours throughout the state if additional relief doesn’t come soon,” said Gary Witt, President & CEO of the Pabst Theater Group. “It’s impossible for live entertainment venues to sustain the forced closure and prolonged loss of revenue we’re facing. When our businesses close, our arts and culture scene will suffer, the $250 million dollar contribution our group alone makes to Milwaukee’s economy will disappear, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate will surge and a segment of the economy will collapse.”

Wisconsin’s venues serve as revenue generators and modern day convention groups, attracting visitors like moths to the lights of their cities. It is estimated that independent concert venues contribute over a billion dollars to Wisconsin’s economy, helping to keep restaurants, bars, coffee shops, hotels and other retail thriving in our state. Wisconsin’s venues also spend millions of dollars marketing events in their cities, helping to build the soul and identity of their communities and the state.

Wisconsin’s economy simply cannot restart without its beloved venues. Community members are urged to visit https://www.change.org/p/tony-evers-help-save-wisconsin-indie-venues-effected-by-covid-19 to sign a petition in support of local entertainment venues.

Wisconsin – based National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) members include:

Big River Theatre, Alma
Gibson Community Music Hall, Appleton
Mile of Music, Appleton
OuterEdge Stage, Appleton
Big Top Chautauqua, Bayfield
Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, Brookfield
Country Fest, Cadott
Rock Fest, Cadott
X-Ray Arcade, Cudahy
Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild’s Grand Theatre, Eau Claire
Blue Ox Music Festival, Eau Claire
Country Jam USA, Eau Claire
Eaux Claire’s Festival, Eau Claire
Pablo Center at the Confluence, Eau Claire
Pine Hollow, Eau Claire
The Lakely, Eau Claire
The Metro, Eau Claire
The Plus, Eau Claire
Ugly Mermaid Venue & Cultural Centre, Eau Claire
Funk’s Pub, Fitchburg
Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, Fond du Lac
Cavalier Theater, La Crosse
Pump House Regional Arts Center, La Crosse
Warehouse, La Crosse
Weber Center for the Performing Arts, La Crosse
Arts Wisconsin, Madison
Barrymore Theatre, Madison
Café CODA, Madison
Communication Madison, Madison
Liquid & Ruby, Madison
North Street Cabaret, Madison
Overture Center for the Arts, Madison
The Venue on Winnebago St, Madison
T Presents, Madison
The Mabel Tainter, Menomonie
Cactus Club, Milwaukee
Company Brewing, Milwaukee
Eagles Club, Milwaukee
Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, Milwaukee
LIVE @ the Lakefront, Milwaukee
Pabst Theater Group, Milwaukee
Shank Hall, Milwaukee
Site 1A, Milwaukee
Tavern at Turner Hall, Milwaukee
The Cooperage, Milwaukee
The Back Room @ Colectivo, Milwaukee
The Miramar Theatre, Milwaukee
The Rave, Milwaukee
The Riverside Theater, Milwaukee
Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee
Var Gallery and Studios, Milwaukee
Walker’s Point Music Hall, Milwaukee
The Mineral Point Opera House, Mineral Point
Campanile Center for the Arts, Minocqua
The Suburban Bourbon, Muskego
Country USA, Neenah
Rock USA, Neenah
Old Gem Theater, New Richmond
The Grand Oshkosh, Oshkosh
Xebec Corporation, Rhinelander
Weill Center Foundation, Inc., Sheboygan
LuCille Tack Center for the Arts, Spencer
The Shitty Barn, Spring Green
Stoughton Opera House, Stockholm
WideSpot Performing Arts Center & Community Project Inc, Stockholm
Intellasound Productions, Verona
Associates of the Restored Temple Theatre, Ltd, Viroqua
Historic Temple Theatre, Viroqua
BruMar Productions, Waukesha
Grand Theater, Wausau
Westby Area Performing Arts Center, Westby
The Palace Theater, Wisconsin Dells

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.