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Clubs Neumos and Chop Suey warn COVID-19 crisis could wipe out live music on Capitol Hill

Venue owners say Capitol Hill’s live music scene will be a casualty of the COVID-19 crisis if more isn’t done to buttress the clubs that keep it going.

They’re seeking help from somewhere — from the King County Council or beyond — to help prop up what they say is a one of a kind type of business that needs special financial assistance to survive.

“If people want there to be a music scene in Seattle, we need help from our government. If we don’t get help, there are no more small venues,” Steven Severin, part of the ownership of Neumos and a veteran of the Pike/Pine nightlife scene tells CHS.

Severin is part of an effort for the few clubs like Neumos across the region to come together to call for financial assistance specific to the live music industry. The Washington Nightlife & Music Association is hoped to be a voice for the rare remaining venues. This week, the hope is pinned to the King County Council:

King County has some funding for cultural institutions and WE NEED YOU to contact your County Reps IMMEDIATELY and let them know that music venues need their immediate help by directing that funding to music venues despite being for profit businesses. Many venues CANNOT survive due to high rents & expenses that we’re shouldering while venues are closed.

Unlike a restaurant or bar — like, say, Life on Mars, the Pike/Pine venue Severin co-owns with KEXP DJ John Richards, venues won’t be able to snap back to life as soon as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and crowds, hopefully, are in the mood for a drink again. Instead, Severn says the long, complicated process of booking and scheduling touring acts will start extremely quietly. Government restrictions on large gatherings, too, could make it likely the Hill’s venues could be on a longer path to reopening. To make it, clubs and venues will need help building a financial runway to survive.

“Right now, it depends how far in debt we’re willing to go,” Severin said. “It’s expensive to be closed.”

The neighborhood’s music culture has already been dealt some heavy blows this spring with hundreds of canceled shows. Last week, July’s annual Capitol Hill Block Party announced it won’t just be delayed — it is also cancelled. With nearly 30 years since its start as Moe’s Mo’Roc’N Café in an old Salvation Army at the corner of 10th and Pike, Neumos faces an uncertain future.

Erin Carnes of 14th and Madison’s Chop Suey says the threat goes beyond the business model. Live music is a neighborhood asset.

“We are cultural spaces for people to come into together,” she said.

With her club darkened during the restrictions, Carnes said she and Chop Suey’s ownership — which took over the 2002-born club about five years ago — are like most other small business owners right now: “overwhelmed and frantic and trying to see what we can do to survive through all of this” and to get her employees back to work.

She hopes with enough attention and help with cash and rent, Chop Suey and other city venues like the Clock-Out Lounge or neighborhood clubs like Q can join the eventual party when restrictions can be safely lifted — even if it takes a few weeks or months longer than the bars and restaurants to get acts booked and on the schedule again.

Carnes also worries about how the death of places like Neumos or Chop Suey might change music itself.

“The venues won’t be there. There will be a change in the industry of what is being booked. The way we’ve kind of existed for many years… a lot of those platforms won’t be there any more.”

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7 thoughts on “Clubs Neumos and Chop Suey warn COVID-19 crisis could wipe out live music on Capitol Hill” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Neumos is 50% owned by Jerry Everard, who a few years ago sold a downtown building for what was then the highest price per square foot ever in Seattle. He owns the building Neumos is in and several others in Seattle, is an attorney. His partners in Neumos include Mike McConnell who just sold Caffe Vita for north of 15m and Jason LaJuenesse who owns CHBP, The Comet, Lost Lake Cafe, three Big Mario’s, two waterfront homes and three buildings in White Center (all public knowledge, all boasted about on social media.) The two remaining partners are both wealthy, middle-aged, white, CIS gendered men who own a combination of at least 5+ businesses and many more investments. These owners (all white, all straight, no women, no diversity) are getting media coverage, political favors and are asking for front of the line help from the government, frI’m a cash strapped County for one venue? Bulls***. These men are the last people who deserve a bailout… eat the rich – they are filthy rich. Save Vera, save small minority and LGBTQIA owned venues and independent venues like Clockout, don’t confuse them with Neumos. Bailout the musicians who fill the venues… anything but these men.

    • I find your point interesting but I think it would help if you could provide links to support your argument. Also, Neumos is one venue, what about chop suey or other small/midsized venues? The argument makes some rational logical sense.

    • Wait. So, someone who busts their ass, builds a business, takes risks, hires people, brings cultural value and services to the neighborhood, but (horror of horrors) happens to be a straight, white male shouldn’t seek the same relief as everyone else? Are you at all aware of the margins of the restaurant business, or the live event business? They aren’t nearly as large as you think they are. This class warfare bull***t is really getting tired.

      • You certainly have the right to work hard and make money, but to put yourself out there above others when you aren’t suffering at all- is a problem. Call it
        Class warfare if you like, but the BS is when the rich straight white men put themselves first and think they are more entitled than others who work just as hard because they have access to the straight white men’s club. It’s called privilege asshat.

      • Best I can tell, Phyllis, they aren’t putting themselves above anyone. They’re saying that this situation has decimated the live event business, and unless we want the Hill to lose part of what drives a large part of the neighborhood economy they may need an assist just like everyone else. Contrary to what you may think, most club owners aren’t rolling in it…margins are slim, insurance is high, and rents are astronomical just like every other place in Seattle. The fact that they’re straight white males doesn’t change that metric. You want to live on a place with nothing but Chipotle and national banks? Fine…let the local folks who pump money into the neighborhood rot because of their ‘privledge’ and see what happens. Asshat.

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