The National Independent Venue Association addressed the House Small Business Committee on Wednesday about the ongoing struggles live entertainment is facing in the midst of the surge in COVID-19 cases. Reanne Presley – co-owner of Presley’s Country Jubilee in Branson, MO and NIVA member – informed the committee that independent venues are dealing with a tremendous lack of consumer confidence when it comes to live events resulting in up to 50% no-show rate at shows.
“Today, the roller coaster ride of the pandemic continues,” Presley told members of the committee. “Traditionally, about 5% of ticket buyers don’t attend performances, but now, sagging consumer confidence is causing national no-show rates as high as 50%. This is devastating because most of our venues rely on in-house sales to pay core bills.”
Presley’s small business received funds from pandemic related government relief including the Paycheck Protection Program and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant in previous years, but emphasized to representatives that venues continue to face economic hurdles as the country enters its third year of the pandemic including price increases on essential products due to inflation.
“Just in the past month, I have received notices of impending price increases from our trash hauler to our concession suppliers to our janitorial service,” said Presley.
When asked how her family-owned business could weather the price increases, Presley explained that she was left with only two options to keep her business afloat: pass the costs on to her customers or diminish the customer experience. If Presley passes that cost onto the consumer, she expects it will result in customers to have less money to spend on merchandise, food and beverages – which is money the theatre also depends on to keep going.
Presley’s Country Jubilee is set to reopen in March and Presley anticipates increased prices across the board from creating new merchandise to higher insurance costs.
In addition, it is becoming increasingly difficult for small businesses – especially those in the live sector – to find and hire staff in the competitive environment. Presley stated, “Remote work is not an option for our business. It is especially difficult to compete with national employers who are able to offer higher starting wages.”
Presley expressed that an extension on when SVOG funds could be used would significantly help recipients who are continuing to face high no-show rates, price increases and staffing shortages.
As of this week, the SVOG has granted nearly $14 billion of its allotted $16 billion to more than 12,800 independent venues across the country. Venues were expected to use those funds for eligible costs through the end of 2021, but a bi-partisan bill was introduced in September to allow those funds to be utilized through March 2023. The bill was supported by NIVA, National Independent Talent Organization and more live entertainment organizations when it was introduced.