Where else to announce the passage of funding for a bill that is providing some much-needed relief for live music and entertainment venues but the stage of the world’s largest honky-tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas.
That was the case Wednesday morning as area government and business leaders took to the stage to sing in harmony the praises of the Save Our Stages Act, which was included in the recently passed $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. The Save Our Stages Act is expected to provide $15 billion to eligible live entertainment venues, performing arts organizations, museums and motion picture operators across the country, many that have been shuttered during the pandemic.
Billy Bob’s Texas has been open and has operated as a restaurant for the last few months. But, as those on stage noted, many other operators have not been able to remain open. The entertainment bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, was joined by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and others from the tourism and entertainment industry.
“I am proud my bipartisan Save Our Stages Act is included in the latest COVID-19 relief bill,” said Williams. “Live music venues were among the first to close and will be the last to reopen due to forced government closures and public health guidance that continues to be near impossible to overcome.”
Williams introduced the Save Our Stages Act with Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) to provide grants from the Small Business Administration to independent music venues impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnosota) introduced the Senate companion version of the legislation.
Walter Kinzie, CEO of Fort Worth-based Encore Live, has been able to keep his business open and employees on payroll, but said the pandemic has “been an incredibly humbling experience for those of us who work in the entertainment industry.”
“Tomorrow when we close our books, we’ll be down 92% compared to last year,” he said.
Billy Bob’s general manager Marty Travis said the famed honky-tonk is “working a lot harder to make less money.”
Tom Martens, Creative Director for Visit Fort Worth/Hear Fort Worth, said music venues need to survive the pandemic.
“This will provide an opportunity that will allow the next Leon Bridges, whoever that is, to get on stage, find their voice and share their talents,” he said. “These venues, these concert halls, these stages are part of the $2.6 billion visitor economy we at Visit Fort Worth help curate by letting people know where to go, where to eat, where to stay and especially where to see live music on our stages.”
Event operators will be able to apply for grants up to $10 million to help with payroll, rent, utilities and PPE through the Small Business Administration.