Oversight committee dedicates $2M to help live music venues, fine arts groups

Singer/Songwriter Bobby Bare performs at The 6th Annual Jerry Reed Celebration at 3rd & Lindsley on September 21, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
Singer/Songwriter Bobby Bare performs at The 6th Annual Jerry Reed Celebration at 3rd & Lindsley on September 21, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

The city’s financial oversight committee, which recommends how Nashville spends its CARES Act funds, unanimously voted on Thursday to appropriate $2 million in emergency grants to live music and arts businesses that have been shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s the first domino to help save Nashville’s independent live music venues, which disclosed to the Tennessee Lookout this week they are on the brink of closure.

The nine-member committee, including three Metro Council members, committed $2 million in grants that will be administered by a company called Pathway Lending. Metro Councilwoman Courtney Johnston said all $2 million will go directly to music and performing arts businesses and organizations.

The grant funds will require Metro Council approval at next week’s meeting.

Metro Nashville Councilmember Courtney Johnston (Photo: Submitted)
Metro Nashville Councilmember Courtney Johnston (Photo: Submitted)

“The passion for me comes from the fact that music is the soul of Nashville,” Johnston said. “We wanted to act, and we wanted to act as quickly as possible to get these grants to the businesses that are struggling the most.”

The grants are for businesses and nonprofits that earn less than $5 million annually. Each grantee is eligible for up to $100,000, or two months of COVID-19 era operating expenses, whichever is less.

In Nashville, 15 independent music venues have joined the National Independent Venue Association to push for Congress to set aside money to save concert venues. U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, is a co-sponsor of the Save Our Stages Act, which would earmark $10 billion for live music venues.

Johnston said the committee would prepare a resolution to be considered at next week’s council meeting. Metro received $121 million in federal CASES Act money, which must be spent before the end of the year.

During the committee meeting on Thursday, Metro Councilwoman Sandra Sepulveda cited the Tennessee Lookout story that said 14 independent venues will close in the next 13 weeks without help from the government.

The committee has already allocated funds for Nashville food banks and housing assistance.

On Thursday, the committee, in a separate resolution, also recommended dedicating $1.3 million in grants, also administered through Pathway Lending, for small and micro businesses with revenues of $1 million or less. Pathway Lending will receive a combined $200,000 to administer the grant programs.