With federal assist stalled, New York Metropolis’s nightlife seeks refuge in crowdfunding


According to the National Independent Venue Association, only one in ten independent nightclubs in the United States will be able to survive beyond the next few months without federal bailouts. Mora said the crowdfunding provided a way to help people directly – greenpoint metal and rock bar Saint Vitus raised $ 130,000 earlier this year – but one that is inherently limited.

“The reality is these venues won’t be near full capacity until late 2021,” added the group’s co-founder Ric Leichtung, who is also the founder and publisher of AdHoc, a Brooklyn promoter and publication.

“Even with these amazing crowdfunding campaigns, everyone in the nightlife is struggling to survive.”

The five boroughs have more than 25,000 nightlife establishments that will sustain 300,000 jobs and a total economic output of $ 35.1 billion. This was found in a 2019 report by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

A non-partisan group of senators – including New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand – support the Save Our Stages law, which would provide venues with grants for six months. However, the bill stalled along with a major stimulus package.

Greenpoint-based Kickstarter changed its rules in April to allow venues to raise money for operating expenses. The website previously only allowed fundraising campaigns for creating new projects. Since then, 90 different fundraising campaigns for operating costs have been started. Half of them have achieved their goal required to raise funds (approximately 38% of all Kickstarter projects achieve their goal). The program, called Lights On, has paid out $ 1.4 million for these projects, of which approximately $ 500,000 went to venues in New York.

“Crowdfunding is absolutely critical right now, but it can’t and shouldn’t be the savior for everyone,” said Meredith Graves, Kickstarter music director.

According to Graves, crowdfunding enables venues “to step away from a vast web of issues that are colloquially ablaze at the moment and withdraw to the people who really care about their business.”

The most successful Lights On campaign to date took place in Saint Vitus. Le Poisson Rouge, a concert venue in Greenwich Village, raised $ 55,000.

The venues have also tried other digital means of increasing revenue, including charging for live-stream shows. Friends and Lovers have launched a paid subscription to Patreon that includes regularly curated playlists. Still, there is no sustainable online business model to keep up with the high cost of running nightlife. It costs $ 15,000 a month just to keep friends and lovers closed, Mora said.

David Castillo, co-owner of Saint Vitus, said the fundraiser helped buy the venue for some time while the store closed. The money also gave a mental boost and proved that many people felt a connection to business even when the doors were locked. Confident that Saint Vitus can survive the pandemic, he fears the entire industry.

“I don’t want to be the only one or one in ten who are left. That would suck,” said Castillo. “These are stationary places – legacies – that cannot be rebuilt overnight.”

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