By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — First Avenue, Minnesota’s premier music venue, has been closed for 10 months. And for some of those months, it looked like it would never reopen, according to CEO Dayna Frank.

“Staring at, you know, balance sheets and cash projections and realizing that there was no way out,” Frank said.

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She decided to fight, helping create the now-3,000 member National Independent Venue Association, which lobbied for help.

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Music venues did not qualify for the major source of relief for business under the earlier relief bill. PPP loans that helped 100,000 Minnesota businesses were designed to keep the businesses open and employees working during the pandemic. That has not been an option for music clubs, but this bill is different.

The Save Our Stages Act will provide grants that do not have to be repayed, based on 45% of a club’s 2019 revenues, and up to $10 million.

First Avenue’s Mainroom (credit: CBS)

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas began a long process of getting more than 50 senators on board.

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“Then we worked Mitch McConnell, we got him on board, we got Chuck Schumer on board, which wasn’t as hard because of Broadway,” Klobuchar said.

In Klobuchar’s final speech, she quoted Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changing.”

“‘Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call. Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall,’ and so no one blocked the hall and we got it done,” Klobuchar said.

Frank says she’s still in shock.

“You work so hard and, you know, we never gave up hope. We always believed we could do it, but I never quite imagined what it would be like when it happened, so it’s just totally surreal.”

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Other local venues that could benefit from the bill include the Chanhassen Dinner Theater, The Dakota and the Cedar Cultural Center.

Esme Murphy