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'Day of Action' for Michigan music event venues as they fight for government aid

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) is pushing for support for two bills -- the RESTART Act and Save Our Stages Act - which would bring financial aid.

SPRING LAKE, Mich. — Michigan music venues are asking for the community's help Monday to rally support for two new bills that would provide assistance to their industry as well as other small businesses.

Music venues across the nation have come together in solidarity and hope of staying afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic. From cancelled events to ticket refunds, restrictions surrounding the coronavirus have cost some businesses nearly all of their revenue.

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) formed as a result of the pandemic's hardships, with the mission to preserve the independent live music venues and its surrounding business throughout the United States. 

Over 60 Michigan music venues have joined NIVA, including Seven Steps Up Music and Events in the Village of Spring Lake.

"Our immediate response to this whole thing was 'what are we going to do?'" owner Michelle Hanks said.

NIVA is currently drumming up support for two bills: The RESTART Act and the Save our Stages Act, both would offer financial aid to live music venues.

Democratic Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow have both co-sponsored the RESTART Act. Peters has also signed onto the Save our Stages Act. In a statement to 13 ON YOUR SIDE, U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, said he is currently looking into the Save our Stages Act.

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"Independent small music venues in West Michigan and around the nation are facing unique challenges from COVID-19. These small businesses play an important role in our local economy, and I am currently reviewing the Save Our Stages Act as an effective option to help employees impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic," the statement read.

Michelle and her husband Gary Hanks say today's call to action is a last-ditch effort to keep their business, as well as others', alive.

"If something doesn't happen this week, it's not going to happen," Michelle said with tears in her eyes.

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The Hanks said Seven Steps Up is used to holding at least 10 concerts a month, earning about $400,000 in 2019. However, they say COVID-19 restrictions halted their income.

"In the month of June, we sold $43.87 of some jewelry and $106 of some curbside beer," Michelle said.

Gary noted that in addition to decline in revenue, the couple has also struggled with ongoing costs the business still faces, such as utilities, insurance, a liquor license. He said this predicament can have a domino effect on surrounding businesses.

"Concerts bring in money...Restaurants benefit. Hotels benefit. Gift shops benefit," he said, calling the industry an ecosystem.

Seven Steps Up hasn't been able to hold an event since March 8. The Hanks said they have been able to get by with help of a successful GoFundMe they received donations to. However, they believe they will only be able to make it a few more months if they can't find aid through legislation.

"This isn’t just Seven Steps Up. The live music industry as we know it is going to disappear," Michelle said.

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