Live Music, Theater Operators Say It’s Time To Reopen

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SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – Some operators of live music and theater venues in central New York say it’s time for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to let them reopen, even if it is just partially. Sen. Charles Schumer is pushing for legislation in a new Covid stimulus bill that would give these businesses some financial support to stay afloat.

Dan Mastronardi is the owner of the Westcott Theater, a live music venue in Syracuse that’s been closed down since March.

“Zero revenue, 100% bills,” he said.

He understands that the governor allowing them to reopen wouldn’t be at full capacity.

Westcott Theater owner Dan Mastronardi (center) with Sen. Schumer. CREDIT TOM MAGNARELLI / WRVO PUBLIC MEDIA

“But it’s time for some things to change, and allow us to be able to attempt to open at minimal capacities, just like he’s done with restaurants and bars,” Mastronardi said.

He supports the Save our Stages Act being pushed by Senator Schumer. It would create a new $10 billion program through the Small Business Administration, which would provide grants up to $12 million for live event venues. Schumer said that money could get those businesses over the hump, until they can reopen.

“But if we don’t get this money, we’re going to have lots of closures and lots of unemployed people,” Schumer said.

Inside the Westcott Theater. Capacity has been reduced from 700 to 100, with the purchase of high top tables and stools. The venue is still closed. TOM MAGNARELLI / WRVO PUBLIC MEDIA

Republicans in control of the Senate are working on a new coronavirus stimulus bill. Schumer, a Democrat, said if a large stimulus bill passes, the Save our Stages Act would be a part of it. In Onondaga County, arts and culture is a nearly $150 million industry that employs thousands of people.

Samara Hannah, executive director of the Redhouse Arts Center, said reopening, even with reduced capacity, would still be a financial struggle.

“We’re looking for a lot of donations, a lot of sponsors to help us through this time,” Hannah said. “Here, talking with Senator Schumer, what kind of federal government grants and stimulus packages out there can keep us going?”

national survey says 90% of independent venue owners and promoters may have to close without federal funding.