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Local music venues worried about shutdown impact

Posted at 5:45 PM, Apr 27, 2020

CLEVELAND — The neon sign outside the Grog Shop has been dark for more than a month.

For nearly 30 years, the glowing red light was a nightlight, guiding music lovers inside the locally owned venue but now the doors of this Cleveland classic are closed.

"When it first started everybody started canceling the April shows and then the May and now it's June," owner Kathy Blackman said. "All these bands that had huge touring schedules in the spring—that's all gone. All the festivals have canceled over the summer, so that's all gone."

Locally owned venues are staples on the music scene but a few are worried they may not recover.

"We don't have any money," Cindy Barber said. Barber owns the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern.

She was ready to celebrate two decades in business in March. Instead they were canceling shows.

The shows were keeping the doors open so Barber had to get creative. Now she's selling old show posters online.

"The little bit of money that we're getting is, basically, out of the kindness of our patron's hearts," Barber said. "We've managed to eek out a few thousand dollars. That's paid a few bills."

Cleveland-based bands are also eyeing an end date and looking at the future for when the venues might open again.

"To think that a lot of them may not survive this is sad," Matthew Roads said. "It's sad."

Roads is the front man for the local reggae, hip-hop, funk group Tropidelic.

The group was at the end of a tour when the shut downs and stay at home orders started. Roads said he was happy to be home but driving in to Cleveland was an eerie feeling.

"It was like coming back to a place that wasn't the same," he said.

Tropidelic hasn't been performing on stage but they've been working on new music in the studio.

"Fingers crossed for June and July," he said. "But my gut tells me June is probably out too."

For Roads, having fan support has been helpful especially since they haven't been performing.

"People are generally supportive even though everyone's going through a hard time right now," he said.

If venues open up, they may face an attendance restriction. Blackman said that would continue to impact her bottom line.