That includes Tacoma’s Jazzbones, an iconic music venue that has hosted artists from Sir Mix-a-Lot to locally based Stay Grounded.
The business is open to serve food, though is not hosting any music events. As part of the campaign, Jazzbones’ owner put up a mock sign in the hopes of catching the attention of passersby by showing what a world would look like if it were forced to close.
The sign says “COMING SOON” with a photo of a new building and warns “unless we act now” that could be what replaces Jazzbones.
Rachel Hogan, owner of Jazzbones, spoke to The News Tribune about the sign.
“It actually is getting people’s attention. When you drive by and you see the sign, you stop. It basically forces you to read what it says,” Hogan said. “I think a lot of people are forgetting about the live music venues and what they’re going through right now.”
Businesses like Jazzbones generate most of their revenue through live entertainment, which is prohibited right now. Hogan hopes the sign can draw people’s attention to that.
“It has good points on it. I think it’s helpful,” Hogan said. “We’re just trying to get the word out that live music venues are going to be the last to open.”
The sign currently on the exterior of Jazzbones lays out the stakes for the venue.
“Music in Washington is in crisis. Since COVID-19, our independent music venues were the first to close,” the sign reads. “Without assistance the majority are at risk of never reopening. What will replace them if we can’t save our venues?”
Jazzbones closed during the initial days of the pandemic but got back operating as soon as it was allowed.
“When they allowed us to go to Phase 1, we started doing curbside pickup and to-go food,” Hogan. “The day that they said we could go to Phase 2, I remember it was really early in the morning, we opened that night.”
The venue is limited to 50 percent capacity. Hours are 5-11 pm on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday. On Sunday Jazzbones opens at 9 a.m. to show football and goes to 11 p.m.
Hogan hopes there can be community support to help them as they face an uncertain future. The Keep Music Live campaign was borne out of the uncertainty and launched in the hopes of raising a 10 million dollars as a relief fund to support Washington’s venues.
“It would be awesome if people could donate to it because it’s going to help all the venues,” Hogan said. “Spread the word, support all the live music venues as much as you can.”
Other Tacoma venues such as Alma Mater, which is operating with food as well, are part of the campaign. Nathan Chambers is in charge of booking talent for the venue, which has all but dried up recently.
Chambers is now working with WA Nightlife & Music Association (WANMA) and is hoping to champion the Tacoma venues currently facing down a long wait before they can have in-person shows again.
“A lot of the other Tacoma venues are participating. Jazzbones, Airport Tavern, Plaid Pig and Real Art,” Chambers said. “We had talked to The Swiss, but, unfortunately, we didn’t get to them in time. They’re no longer operating. That just shows how dire the situation is and how important it is for people to do anything they can to keep these independent venues afloat.”
None of the other Tacoma venues are putting up signs like Jazzbones, though all will benefit from the campaign. Chambers said Jazzbones was chosen as it gets more foot traffic.
“We just figured that was a more impactful situation,” Chambers said. “A lot of the venues that are going to be benefiting from this have been shut down since February, unable to collect revenue for the foreseeable future.”
Chambers said he still hopes for federal relief, but he is leading the charge on what he can control which is to organize in Washington.
“The national front, it’s needed. We would love to have it,” Chambers said. “We just need to raise awareness about how important these venues are as economic drivers and pillars of the community.”
As for how long venues would be able to keep up as is, that remains an open question.
“That is a big mystery,” Chambers said. “A lot of venues that I’m speaking with on a weekly basis are feeling that struggle. Those rent checks are getting harder and harder to pay.”