Sep 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Austin music venues receive $113M in COVID relief grants

A crowd at the Mohawk in Austin, Texas
Sudan Archives performs onstage during SXSW at Mohawk on March 12, 2018 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Diego Donamaria/Getty Images for SXSW

The federal government distributed more than $113 million in aid to struggling Austin music venues through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, according to the latest data from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Why it matters: Music venues in Austin and across the country were forced to shutter because of the pandemic, leaving independent venues especially at risk for permanent closure.

More than 100 Austin venues received aid through the program, according to the latest data available from Sept. 20.

Data: U.S. Small Business Administration; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: U.S. Small Business Administration; Chart: Axios Visuals
  • The University of Texas got $9 million, the largest grant distributed among Austin venues.
  • Citywide staples like Stubbs, Alamo Drafthouse, Violet Crown Cinemas, South by Southwest and Austin City Limits Music Festival organizer C3 Management also received funding through the program.

Zoom out: Nearly 700 Texas venues have collected $767 million in relief since this April.

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program is part of the Save Our Stages Act, bipartisan legislation from U.S. Sens. John Cornyn of Texas (R) and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota (D) that was signed into law last December.

  • Only small, shuttered and at-risk venues qualify for the $16.2 billion in federal funding. The grant dollars may be equal to 45% of the business' gross earned revenue.
  • Venue operators may use the grants for rent, utilities, mortgage obligations and other operating and administrative costs.

What they're saying: The Mohawk's Austen Bailey said the program couldn’t come soon enough for the venue, which had to furlough its staff just days after being forced to close in March 2020. Mohawk Austin closed its doors for roughly 14 months, reopening in May.

  • "Without the federal funding, independent live music would not exist. Period," said Bailey, who lobbied lawmakers to pass the measure. "That is the same for Mohawk as it is for other independent venues."
  • The Mohawk received $1.2 million through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program.

The Austin Theatre Alliance, the nonprofit that manages the Paramount and Stateside Theatres, received more than $4.1 million through the program.

  • The boost allowed the nonprofit to rehire staff, reestablish cut salaries and bring back artists.
  • "Would the 105-year-old Paramount Theatre close? No. Would it have been severely injured? Absolutely," said Jim Ritts, CEO and executive director of the Austin Theatre Alliance. "It would've taken us years to recover."
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