Chicago's Music Venues Face Another Hurdle

An already fragile industry is dealing with another blow

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A federal grant that was supposed to give Chicago’s independent music venues financial assistance has been facing technical glitches for nearly a week.

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, administered by the U.S. Small Business Association, was only open for a few hours on April 8 before it crashed.

The owner of Golden Dagger in Lincoln Park, formerly known as Tonic Room, was banking on the funds to help pivot his business into a coffee bar while he waits for live concerts to return.

Donnie Biggins said he’s now pulling from his personal savings to complete the project while working a full-time job and taking care of his three children.

"I started doing all this work, imagining I already applied for that," said Biggins.

Without knowing when the application will be made available again, he fears he'll have to ask the community for help to keep his dream business afloat.

Many of Chicago’s independent venues have been closed for more than a year.

The SVOG program was supposed to give these venues more money to keep up with rent, utilities, property taxes and more.

Billy Helmkamp, a board member with the Chicago Independent Venue Leauge (CIVL), said more than 50 of the city’s venues are counting on this grant program.

Last year, CIVL and other organizations representing small independent venues said most of Chicago’s venues are at risk of closing without assistance during this pandemic.

Little has changed since 2020, but Biggins is hopeful help will eventually come.

"I’m very self-driven to figure it out,” said Biggins. "I’m willing to put everything on the line to do that."

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