Can LA's iconic music venues survive the pandemic?

Iconic Los Angeles entertainment venues have struggled during the pandemic. A year later, many face uncertainty and questions remain if they will survive.

Video Transcript

- Well, so much has changed for all of us over the last year when the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared and we started going into lockdown. Among those hardest-hit, iconic Los Angeles venues. Eyewitness News reporter Rob Hayes taking a look at their future and whether they will survive.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

ROB HAYES: Michael Lemmo needs two things in life, a guitar and a stage. But right now, there's not a stage to be found. This performance at The Troubadour was from a year ago.

MICHAEL LEMMO: That was the last show we played.

ROB HAYES: The rising star now turning to the virtual, stage playing online.

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His music squeezed through the internet and flattened by the screen.

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MICHAEL LEMMO: There isn't that connection with the crowd. There isn't that turning it up loud in front of people and that kind of camaraderie that you just can't get in the studio. That's the hard part.

ROB HAYES: Lemmo isn't alone. All across Southern California, music and comedy venues are shuttered. Their stages silenced, their bars dry, their floors barren.

AMY MADRIGALI: We've been without proper shows for almost a year now. So it's been quiet and just, honestly, a time of trying to survive.

ROB HAYES: Amy Madrigali is a talent booker at The Troubadour. The popular West Hollywood club now relying on the live streamed shows and selling merchandise to help pay the bills, other closed venues doing the same.

MARK FLANAGAN: This is just seems endless.

ROB HAYES: Mark Flanagan is the owner of Largo in Beverly Grove, shuttered for the last year, the unpaid rent here is now in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Reopening still not on Flanagan's horizon.

MARK FLANAGAN: I don't put a time on it. But I feel at this point, we've been through so much that we'll find out when we find out.

ROB HAYES: Help for these struggling venues is on the way, just slowly. More than 3,000 clubs like these all across the country banded together, lobbying for the Save our Stages Act.

And it worked. Late last year, Congress approved the $15 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. But that aid still has not been dished out.

REV. MOOSE: All the right things were done. It's just taken too long for what we need right now. And what we need is immediate assistance.

ROB HAYES: Reverend Moose heads up NIVA, the National Independent Venue Association, which pushed for that federal aid. But with the funds still out of reach, the losses are mounting.

REV. MOOSE: We've already seen probably several hundred venues already close from the start of the pandemic.

ROB HAYES: And over at The Troubadour, the speakers are quiet. The only thing you might hear is the sound of money being lost.

AMY MADRIGALI: We're normally booked 300 nights a year. A lot of those nights are sold out.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

ROB HAYES: A sold out night at The Troubadour or any other stage would be music to the ears for Michael Lemmo.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

MICHAEL LEMMO: To play a gig again in front of a lot of people, that's all I can ask for.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

If I can do that again, I'll be a very, very happy person.

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