NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Late Monday night, Congress passed a massive COVID-19 relief package that included the Save Our Stages Act, a bill providing a $15 billion boost to independent music venues.
"I'm relieved I think, I feel very relieved," Chris Cobb said. Cobb is co-owner of Nashville's EXIT/IN which, like so many other music venues, has been closed since the start of the pandemic.
"Live music has been, for the most part, closed. Canceled," Cobb said. In most cases, music venues were some of the first businesses to close and will likely be the last places to reopen. That left workers at independent stages, like the EXIT/IN, worried that they would be unable to make it to the end of the pandemic.
Those fears grew last spring, when closed venues were mostly left out of the first round of federal help.
"We were closed to [where] we were unable to rehire, so no, there was nothing for businesses like ours," Cobb said. "This virus has devastated the industry and therefore devastated a lot of Tennesseans."
But earlier this week, those venues got a lifeline when Congress passed the Save Our Stages Act, which promises $15 billion for independent music venues.
"There was a lot of crying on the call, yeah it's really pretty historic," Cobb said. "It means we can pay our bills until we can get reopened."
The Act also includes language creating an oversight committee to ensure the money goes to smaller, local and independent stages.
The Save Our Stages Act was passed after a months-long campaign from local music venues. The push began last May and more than two million people wrote letters to lawmakers, urging them to pass relief for independent venues.
Cobb hopes the money will be enough to help venues get through the end of the pandemic and can keep the music playing on independent stages.
"We've got a long way to go, and we need vaccinations and people to feel safe going back out... but I think that this bill is going to get us there," Cobb said. "It allows us to at least dream about opening again."
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