DC-area music venues asking lawmakers for financial help during COVID-19 pandemic

A coalition of D.C. area music venues are asking lawmakers for aid in order to keep the live music business music going.

Social distancing has silenced music clubs in the District amid the coronavirus pandemic and now struggling venues and artists have turned live streaming to connect with their audience and generate some income.

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The Pearl Street Warehouse at The Wharf in Southwest D.C. is usually packed for shows, but it’s been empty for six weeks now.

What was supposed to be a breakout in the venue’s third year in operation has become an increasingly uncertain future.

No concerts mean no revenue for the Pearl Street Warehouse, the musical artists who perform there, or the staff that works there.

The owners of the Pearl Street Warehouse say they’ve been forced to lay off about 30 employees. The three staffers that are still employed spend the day, not getting ready for music shows, but preparing family-style meals from their kitchen, selling liquor bottles from their bar.

But live music? A crowd? That’s the beating heart of a music club, and that’s stopped. The hope is that heartbeat will restart soon, but that is far from a certainty for worried owners.

“We don’t know when we come back if we can have 50 people in a 300 person room, or if we have 25, or if people are going to have to sit at tables” he adds “That’s not what a rock and roll show is or a music venue is," said co-owner Nick Fontana.


The Pearl Street Warehouse’s music artists also face uncertainty.

Singer-songwriter Maggie Miles, from Purcellville, Virginia, is now living in Nashville.

Maggie has been performing online as part of Pearl Street Warehouse’s “Quarantine Concerts Series”.

The concerts are shown on Facebook Live and on the club’s YouTube page.  

Maggie’s not making any money from this now but says it’s at least letting her connect with new fans in a new way. 

“Pearl Street’s honestly been the coolest connection to have because I was supposed to release a record last month and I was going to be coming back to dc to a record release show," said Maggie.

Her concert scheduled for May 30 at the Pearl Street Warehouse had to be postponed. She says the club’s online series has been helpful in maintaining a bond with her audience

“And luckily they’re such a great venue they’ve been able to be flexible with this situation through this process," said Maggie.

Her new album “Am I Drowning, Or Learning How To Swim” has been pushed back to an August release.

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Pearl Street Warehouse was turned down for its initial attempt to apply for a Payroll Protection Program but is hopeful they’ll be successful in the next round.  

In the meantime, the venue is now one of 450 music clubs across the country that have banded together for The National Independent Venue Association. The goal is to get Congress’s attention to help with financial aid so small live music venues don’t disappear.