By Eric Dundon
If you drove by historic Powell Hall on Tuesday night, September 1, you might have noticed something unusual. The building was lit up in red lights, even though no events took place at the hall.
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra was one of hundreds of entertainment venues across the country participating in the Red Light RESTART event, a nationwide event bringing awareness to the impact of COVID-19 on the live event industry, as well as advocating for the passage of the RESTART Act in Congress to assist event venues financially. The SLSO joined other local arts organizations and venues in St. Louis including Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, The Fox Theatre, Stifel Theatre, Enterprise Center, and others.
On September 2, members of the SLSO production team participated in a “load in” in downtown St. Louis to raise additional awareness for the RESTART Act.
According to Billboard, “the RESTART Act offers up to 90 percent forgiveness for loans to companies that have high revenue loss and doesn’t penalize industries that rely on part-time employees.”
The act also designates grants for live event industry venues in an amount equal to 45 percent of its 2019 gross revenue, up to $12 million, instead of deciding loan amounts by a company’s payroll. The bill was introduced to Congress in May by Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. Senate hearings have been held in the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Since the start of the pandemic, millions of people have lost their jobs or been placed on furlough in the event industry, which is a $1 trillion industry in the U.S. annually. Workers in this industry were some of the first to lose jobs and will likely be some of the last to return to work. According to WeMakeEvents—a coalition of trade bodies, businesses, and live event workers—95 percent of live events have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and almost every live event business has seen an impact on staffing.
In addition to musicians and full-time administrative staff, the SLSO employs dozens of stagehands, ushers, concessions and box office staff, custodial and security staff—whose jobs all depend on concerts and events at Powell Hall.
“The arts have always survived and are something people have turned to in both good and tough times,” said Maggie Bailey, the SLSO’s Director of Operations. “It’s important to take care of our industry now so that we all can return to concerts, movies, and other forms of entertainment again. The events this week help put a face to the story, showing the venues, organizations and, most importantly, people that have been profoundly affected.”
Contact your congressional representative here to express your support for the RESTART Act.
Eric Dundon is the SLSO Public Relations Manager.