COVID-19 Effect on Local Economy: Neighborhood Theatre

COVID-19 Effect on Local Economy: Neighborhood Theatre

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Without people in the seats or in line at the ticket box, independent music venues like Charlotte’s Neighborhood Theatre have been running on help from the community, using resources like GoFundMe.

"We had a goal of $50,000," Gregg McCraw says. "I think only two or three weeks later, we're only $2,000 away from meeting our goal, and the outpouring of support has been great. We were overwhelmed, I think we raised over $20,000 in the first day. But again, that's not sustainable."

While $50,000 seems like a lot of money for a local business, it may not go far for a business like the Neighborhood Theatre.

“$50,000 will cover about two and a half months of fixed costs at this venue,” McCraw says.

McCraw says he sympathizes with other local businesses, but believes the impact on the live music industry is greater than any other.

"I often make the comparison, and I certainly have a lot of compassion for restaurants, they've gone through a lot as well, but restaurants have been able to do takeout," he says. "We can't do takeout music. We either have people in this room, or other rooms around town, or we can't generate revenue."

He says if Charlotte loses its local music industry, there could be a ripple effect within neighborhoods across the city.

“We are starting to generate numbers so everyone understands, including the city, what the economic impact would be,” he says. “I mean [NoDa] was a small mill village 24 years ago when the Neighborhood Theatre opened as a live music venue, there was not a lot going on in this neighborhood. Now it’s a well known, thriving area of this city, and the restaurants and the bars that exist in this area would also struggle, if the Evening Muse and the Neighborhood Theatre went out of business...we bring people, and that’s true of any music venue, we bring people to the neighborhood.”

The Neighborhood Theatre is part of the new Charlotte Independent Venue Alliance, a group dedicated to keeping these businesses alive, through COVID-19 shut downs.

"I think it's important to understand, the people who may only go to one concert a year, let's say they had tickets to Billy Joel in Panthers Stadium," McCraw says. "Billy Joel started playing at small clubs in New York. So the entire music economy and industry starts to fall apart if the small clubs close."

That is why it is so important to local industry leaders to make sure their competition is also staying alive, in Charlotte.

"If you look at cities that are very well known for their music industry, Austin, Texas, Nashville, those are cities where the venues don't compete," McCraw says. "They really work together to bolster the entire music scene, and that's starting to happen in Charlotte."

He says of the 25 venues in CIVA, each is filled with uncertainty for the future.

"I can't tell you today when we can reopen and put people back in this room, nor can anyone else on those calls," McCraw says. "And if this extends into summer of next year, the calculations become completely different. Everyone has their own fixed cost. And again, with zero revenue, in a low margin business, how long can you sustain that?"

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