CLEVELAND — In March 2021, 90% of independent venues across the country were at risk of bankruptcy after closing their doors due to COVID-19. Months later, these venues are getting special recognition from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for keeping the music alive during a time of uncertainty.
The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) was formed during the pandemic, helping local venues like the Beachland Ballroom and the Grog Shop.
"I don't think anybody who's a small independent venue would even be around right now thinking about re-opening,” said Cindy Barber, owner of the Beachland Ballroom.
Consisting of five local venues, NIVA fought to pass the $16 billion "Save Our Stages” Act in December 2020. In July, the group worked to accelerate the distribution of cash to more than 2,000 venues across the country, paying out 45% of a venue's 2019 gross revenue.
"We were kind of made whole for 2020,” Barber said. "N.I.V.A was a God-send to all of us," said Kathy Blackman, owner of the Grog Shop.
Aside from financial support, NIVA provided the emotional support these venues needed when the stages were empty, and the lights were off.
"We were on these weekly calls, and you're venting and you're talking about how things are. We still do that, and I think that was super helpful just for the emotional toll that it took on all of us,” Blackman said.
The group’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed by the community. NIVA will be recognized during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland this weekend.
"It's really cool they're going to do a shout-out to NIVA. The Rock Hall has always been supportive of the Cleveland clubs. They’ve always invited us along for the inductions to take part in it and be part of the celebration,” Blackman said.
“It's really fun to have these things in Cleveland.”
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