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New COVID-19 relief money coming for live music venues

CONCORD — Operators of live music, theater and sporting venues that are closed or face mounting losses due to COVID-19 can now apply for a new $12 million state aid program created with federal money, Gov. Chris Sununu announced Monday.

Applications for the Live Venue Relief Program will be accepted through Oct. 13 with the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery, officials said.

“Live performance venues are the lifeblood of many communities and serve as an economic engine that drives tourism to help sustain main street businesses, restaurants, and hotels,” Sununu said in a statement along with GOFERR Executive Director Taylor Caswell. “To lose these venues would be an economic blow that would have a widespread and profoundly negative ripple effect felt across these communities for many years to come.”


A business must be primarily engaged in offering live theater, music, sports or racing events with tickets sold and open to the public in order to be eligible. Both for-profit and not-for-profit firms can receive this assistance.

All companies found eligible will share the grants with recipients receiving up to $1.5 million apiece.

Many live music venues in the state remain closed in part because national concert tours have not resumed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has urged Congress to pass the latest coronavirus relief package — which includes $10 billion for independent live entertainment venues — in a campaign called “Save our Stages.”

The Democrat-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a $2.2 trillion relief measure last Thursday that included the $10 billion for live music venues. U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., was a co-sponsor.


The Trump administration said the House bill spends much more than the president supports. Senate Republicans last month passed a smaller relief plan of $500 billion that didn’t include any help for the live entertainment industry.

NIVA has warned without the help that 90% of their member performance halls could close since they weren’t eligible for the Payroll Protection Program and other relief efforts.

Sununu noted venues that stayed open presented fewer shows and generated much less revenue as they were maintaining social distancing in the performance halls to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

The owner of the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry recently announced after months of offering outdoor shows that the venue was going to begin staging indoor events at the end of this month.

Restaurant and bar owners have urged Sununu to permit live music performances at their businesses.

The governor has resisted those requests in the past, pointing out similar activity in other states caused their COVID-19 cases to spike.