Helping Cleveland’s Independent Music Venues Survive


As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on and on and on, the time we were looking forward to seeing a cautious return to normal life has turned into a time of surging infections, thanks to the incautious behavior of way too many people as reopening began.

Back in the spring, area music venue were looking optimistically to some sort of reopening by mid-summer. That’s not in the cards anymore for most anymore, and the way we’re going, it looks like they’ll be operating on a limited basis, if on any at all, into the fall and winter.

So the threat to the viability of those small, independent venues, which fueled the formation of the National Independent Venue Association in April, looks even more daunting. The organization’s goal is to share information and lobby for the interests of these businesses, which act as hubs to cities’ music scenes and economic drivers for their neighborhoods.

One way it’s doing so is by encouraging members of the public who care about venues such as the Beachland, the Grog Shop, the Bop Stop, Nighttown, the Happy Dog and others to contact their members of Congress and tell them to offer stimulus support to these businesses, which, while some are finding creative ways to function in the summer will likely have to close again when the weather gets bad. Tell them to support the ReStart Act — S. 3814/H.R. 7481 — to boost small venues chances of surviving. Go here to join the campaign.

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, one of the bill’s sponsors, has posted an explanation of what it does on his website. Read our previous post here.

Meanwhile, area clubs are adjusting and looking for their own ways to survive. The Beachland snagged a grant to do some major upgrades to the venue. It’s turned the Tavern into a venue for recording and streaming and redone the ballroom floor where it’s booked its first shows, with singer/songwriter Samantha Fish, August 24. She will perform two shows with a smaller audience and socially distanced tables.

While the Grog Shop has cancelled or postponed all its shows through the end of the year, its partner venue the B-Side Lounge has reopened its patio for drinks and music— masks required.

The Bop Stop has been looking for ways to use its space creative while full-house concerts are not feasible. It’s offering the opportunity to book live music for private parties of up to 15 people. “Concerts at the BOP STOP can be scheduled for specific dates and times,” they say. “We are happy to book a band for you if you do not have one in mind. You and your guests will be the only patrons in the entire venue. Guests must abide by BOP STOP’s safety protocols and procedures.” They are also renting the club to musicians for socially distanced rehearsals and recording sessions. Contact Gabe Pollack at for more information.

Riverdog Retreat in Oberlin normally hosts semi-outdoor shows in its barn during the summer (its winter shows are in its smaller gallery). After a late start to its season, owner Terry Speer announced the start of shows on August 1 with Jill Andrews (sold out)— with some dramatic changes. As a property with a lot of outdoor space, it moved its concerts out to a meadow. It’s set up socially distanced tables and chairs as well as flagged zones to spread your own blankets and chairs and space by the firepit. Masks are required when for entering, leaving and moving away from your designated seating area including into the barn and main building. In addition, all tickets must be reserved and paid for in advance.

Nighttown has reopened for dining, but currently is booking no concerts, although Jackie Warren is back on piano Friday and Saturday evenings.

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