Neumos in Seattle, in a Pandemic: We Have ‘No Idea’ When SOS Grants Will Be Open

As co-owner of Seattle’s popular independent venue Neumos in Capitol Hill, Steven Severin has been a staple in the Seattle music industry for more than 20 years. Roughly 10 years ago, he helped create the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association to bring together the area’s live event insiders, and for the past 16 years has helped run Neumos with its sister club Barboza and the accompanying Runaway bar.

As part of Billboard’s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we will be speaking with Severin regularly to chronicle his experience throughout the crisis. (Read the last installment here and see the full series here.)

How are the grants going for the Keep Music Live campaign in Washington?

This week we wrapped up the applications for the Keep Music Live grants. Everything has gone through. About 100 venues applied, which is awesome and more than we initially thought. That’s rad. We are going to be able to get money to a lot of people that need it and they need it now.

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Have you received any new information from the Small Business Administration (SBA) on the Shuttered Venue Operator grants (SVO – f.k.a. SOS or Save Our Stages grants)?

The SBA stuff…what a mess. Last week they had a meeting with senators to interview the new head of the SBA. (President Biden’s nominee is the director of California’s SBA Isabella Casillas Guzman.) That was Wednesday. Senator [Maria] Cantwell’s (D-Wa) office called me on Wednesday and asked me if I had questions from WANMA and NIVA for them to ask her. I said absolutely and sent him some questions. They haven’t confirmed her yet.

But the impeachment trial has started this week, so the senate and the government is checked out. They probably aren’t even thinking about this. I have not heard anything about when SBA is going to be able to do anything. They have never done anything this large before which is a huge problem. With the PPP, you had banks doing it. They’ve done this. The SBA hasn’t handed out this much money. We don’t know what is going to happen. We just have to wait and see and people don’t have time to wait longer.

Have you gotten any information on when the applications will be open?

We have no idea at all. No idea.

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Are you hearing about venues concerned they may close before the SVO money gets out?

People are starting to get really stressed again. Things were starting to go really well and now they are stressed again. It sucks. [The money going out] needs to happen. It’s frustrating because we are getting some money to people with the [Keep Music Live] grants. That’s awesome and people around the country are doing different things, but not everybody is. The stress of knowing you owe all this money.

Are you concerned about the number of applications that will come in for the SVO grants?

The SBA is going to have to go through these applications with a fine-tooth comb. Some people have talked about how the SBA should hire us in each of the states because we know what to look for. We know who is a music venue and who is not. But then that would be the people who benefit from the program helping decide who gets the money. It could be a thing where we flag the non-venues. NIVA has a list of everybody across the country that we have all pushed to become NIVA members for this reason. NIVA has already done the work to see if these places are venues. So if you are on that NIVA list, you’re a venue. There is that that we can offer.

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