INDIANAPOLIS — While there are signs of hope at this stage of the pandemic, it will be a long road to recovery for many industries, like those that rely on packed concerts and performances for revenue.
Many of those businesses are working together to help each other stay afloat during this difficult time, thanks to a grassroots group called the Indiana Independent Venue Alliance.
“It's kind of rare that you get together with your competitors,” said IIVA member Debra Silveus McGaha, co-owner of the White Rabbit Cabaret in Fountain Square.
Silveus McGaha has been with the Alliance since it formed in March of 2020, in the first days of the initial shutdown. The group offered much-needed moral support in the beginning.
“Going from packed rooms with you know 200 people to just, you maybe don't have a job like in an instant, was really difficult,” said Silveus McGaha. “It was really nice to first, just have a group of people that you could go, 'oh my God, I'm panicking are you panicking?'”
Now one year later, the IIVA provides much more to its 65 members statewide. The organization has evolved to help venues navigate reopening plans, health restrictions, and funding opportunities.
And it is truly an alliance.
Money from an IIVA fundraiser held in Fountain Square could help a business in Fort Wayne. An independent board of directors leads those efforts.
“They're looking at ok, which venue really needs this the most, which venue is at risk of you know, having their utilities shut off, or behind on their rent,” said executive director Josh Baker. “They make that determination and they're making sure those dollars go to the right place.”
While it may seem like venues are getting back on their feet because capacity restrictions are eased, they still face major challenges.
In Marion County, 50% capacity is allowed at music venues and bars.
“The perception is that things are fine because it's 50% but that's not true,” said Baker. “We can't get to 50% because we have to follow the distancing guidelines.”
Silveus McGaha added, “A venue like us, you're really talking about 40 people or so and I don't think the public really understands that a couple shows a week at 40 people doesn't; it barely pays the rent, if that.”
Those are some of the reasons the Indiana Independent Venue Alliance still needs support. Thankfully, the community is helping provide that support.
“We just became a 501 (c) (3) organization about a month ago, we've been a non-profit org since we started but we actually got our designation about a month ago,” said Baker. “So we haven't been able to really fundraise through grant programs and things like that, so it's been the fans and the community that have like reached into their wallets and donated dollar after dollar to our donation efforts.”
Ensuring that no member venues close due to the pandemic is the IIVA’s focus right now. But the organization plans on sticking around long after the COVID crisis is over, to help shape the future of Indianapolis.
“Once this is done, then we want to kind of work on some other parts of this idea of becoming a music city, a long-term music strategy,” Baker said.
To learn more about the IIVA’s mission and how you can support it, go to indianavenuealliance.org.