NEW YORK — Entertainment hubs are critical to New York City’s economy.
But this week, Rodney Dangerfield’s namesake Upper East Side comedy club announced it’s closing for good and many other venues have remained shuttered for seven months now.
Paul Rizzo has owned the iconic Greenwich Village club, The Bitter End, since 1993. He’s now spending tens of thousands of dollars to put COVID safety precautions in place and is awaiting guidance from the state. One big fear is to reopen and then have to shut down again.
“To me, that would be the hardest thing, that would put me under for sure,” said Rizzo.
Opened in 1961, legends like Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel and James Taylor have performed at The Bitter End. The club has also launched many careers.
But like other venues, COVID shut it down and now it’s unclear when it’ll reopen.
“Up until a month or two ago, I wasn’t sure we will reopen at all,” said Rizzo “But the landlord has been good to us I’m nervous about the future but we’re going to give it a go.”
Reverend Moose is executive director of the National Independent Venue Association. NIVA was formed as a result of the pandemic. They’re now pleading for federal help.
“We did our own research and 90% of independent venues and promoters will close for good without some type of meaningful government support,” said Moose. “ This is already a thinly profitable business to begin with and now we’re being asked to sustain and stay closed for the community’s benefit but the community from a government perspective is not returning the gesture.”
Moose says they have bipartisan support but needs Congress to come together and take action. A closure of 90% of their members alone would mean 2,700 venues closed across the country.
“The independent venues and promoters generally don’t have other income stream, so their income is tied to people being in the room,” said Moose. “Being able to open at a limited capacity isn’t much relief, some can’t do it and you still have the same expenses.”
Independent venues operate on a small margin to begin with. Many have had to refund tickets for cancelled shows. They’ve been closed for 7 months with no revenue coming in, while rent, utilities and other overhead continue to do so.
Starting tonight and lasting through the weekend, NIVA is partnering with YouTube to live stream a virtual concert featuring headliners like Macklemore and Jason Mraz. The concert will raise funds to assist the venues. The Roots are performing at the Apollo in Harlem Saturday night. The Apollo is also a member of NIVA.
Rizzo tells PIX11 News he’s hoping for a December reopening date. But that is fluid, as the situation and guidelines concerning COVID changes by the day.
“We are an important part of the history and we’ve launched a lot of careers and I think it’s an important part of the fabric at the village,” said Rizzo.
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