The SF Board of Supervisors voted this week to establish the San Francisco Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund, as a way to funnel money to struggling music venues and arts institutions that have been shuttered by the pandemic. But right now it seems like a "fund" in name only, and it will need private funding to provide the kind of help that local venues really need to recover.
The board voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the proposed fund, which was first proposed in December by Supervisor Matt Haney. The ordinance gives priority to businesses that meet at least two of the following criteria: being in imminent danger of closing, being at least 15 years old, having been designated an official Legacy Business (meaning 30 or more years old), having a maximum capacity of fewer than 1,000 patrons, and being an integral part of a designated Cultural District.
Music venues, small theaters, and nightclubs — not to mention the cities legion of bars — have suffered the worst during the coronavirus pandemic, without any ability to operate besides online events that often draw few viewers. And if San Francisco hopes to return to being the cultural hub of the Bay Area that it has long been, it can't do so if half or more of its music venues and clubs never reopen.
"Right now there’s really no plan to open the arts and music venues, comedy clubs, theaters, and so if we want these businesses to be here when the pandemic is over, we need to give them a lifeline of support," Haney said in December.
The mayor subsequently allocated $1.5 million toward the San Francisco Relief Grant program for these venues, but this is just a tiny sum compared to a need that is most certainly in the tens of millions.
Last year, the San Francisco Venue Coalition drafted a proposal for a $48 million fund to get the city's venues back on their feet, as KQED notes, estimating each venue's overhead expenses at $18,000 to $35,000 per month.
Haney's legislative aide said of the fund that private donations from the Bay Area wealthy who want to see SF thrive after the pandemic are likely the best hope for the fund.
"We’re going to set up a vehicle via the city where people could donate to the fund," Haney tells the Chronicle this week.
"We should not overlook the fact that we have more billionaires in our city than almost any other city in the world," Mahogany said. "If San Francisco is the place they want to live, they should have an interest in keeping it a place where people want to visit and stay. If they don’t want to see that disappear, perhaps they can spare a few million to see the city survive."
Haney says he also hopes that the fund will get an allocation from the city in the next budge cycle.
Additionally, local music venues and theaters can vie for federal grants via the $15 billion Save our Stages fund in the last stimulus package, but there will be a whole lot of competition for that money.
Photo: SF Oasis/Facebook