WASHINGTON — The pandemic has hit music venues hard, forcing places like D.C.'s iconic 9:30 Club to close for business. Now, they've opened their doors to offer a haven to protesters.
Director of Communications for the club, Audrey Fix Schaefer, said after demonstrators first started flooding the streets in D.C. in June, they were asked if protesters could take refuge in their space.
She said it was a no brainer -- they said yes.
"We have an empty place, and we have people who care about the First Amendment and safety, and we opened up our doors so that we can very safely let people in," Fix Schaefer said. "They have a moment to set aside from the day of everything else that’s going on and really just refresh and regroup and then go on.”
She said they have strict COVID-related safety measures in place, like capping capacity at 10 people, socially distancing people inside and as they wait to get in, and requiring masks.
Fix Schaefer said anyone is welcome to use the restroom, wash up, or even just take a breather.
She said when they catch wind of demonstrations, they'll post on social media offering their club as a reprieve.
“What would you be doing if you didn’t help those that needed help?" she said.
Fix Schaefer said for the first time in 40 years, the 9:30 Club needs help, too. They've been scraping by with no revenue since they had to close in March.
And, she said there isn't currently an avenue for government assistance for music venues.
“We’ve been working very hard to try to explain to both the local and federal government that we’re not going to be able to last like this with zero revenue and our enormous overhead if we don’t get some assistance," she said.
The 9:30 Club joined other venues across the country to start the National Independent Venue Association during the pandemic to advocate for their industry, which Fix Scaefer said will likely be decimated without help.
“There is no business that can last forever with no revenue, period," she said. "It’s not like mortgage and taxes and insurance stop. They do not. And there comes a point where people can’t go any further into debt.”
That's why NIVA's 2,800 members are lobbying Congress to pass the Save our Stages Act, which would provide funding to help venues like the club survive the pandemic.
She said a recent poll done by the association revealed that 90% of its member venues said they wouldn't make it through the pandemic without federal funding.
“Goodness knows when the world can open again, we’re going to need these places, because we’re all craving getting back to it when it’s safe," she said.
You can help by visiting saveourstages.com.