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Small Concert Hall Owner Says Music Venues Like His Can't Make It Under Phase 4 Reopening Restrictions, Are In Danger Of Closing

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As Chicago gears up for Phase 4 of its coronavirus reopening plan this Friday, the owners of the city's storied performance and music venues say they still can't make it with those restrictions.

They told CBS 2's Tara Molina they are not sure how they can reopen until there is a vaccine for the novel coronavirus – and that's if they can stay in business until then.

Avondale Music Hall, 3336 N. Milwaukee Ave., is just one of the city's independent music and venues that can't cut it with Phase 4's 50-person limit.

As he talked with Molina, Chris Bauman walked through the door of the music hall for the first time in months and turned on a light.

"It's like a tornado landed directly on our industry," Bauman said.

He spent years working to open a place like the Avondale Music Hall.

"We do everything from rock to salsa dancing to hip-hop," he said.

And the current situation, to say the least, is not easy.

"We were first to get shut down," Bauman said. "We're going to be last to open back up."

Bauman doesn't want to lose the Avondale Music Hall, and he doesn't want Chicago to lose it, or other venues like it, either.

"Chicago is known across the world for our live music and music scene," Bauman said. "So we're really at risk of losing that."

With the city's guidelines, venues like the Avondale Music Hall can open Friday as we enter Phase 4 - with a 50-person limit, social distancing mandates, mask requirements, and more. But the Avondale Music Hall will not be opening.

"Right now, I'm looking at winter or spring of 2021," Bauman said.

Bauman said the concert hall cannot turn a profit in a 400- to 500-person venue while abiding by a 50-person limit.

"We'd lose more money opening up," he said.

And it's not just about the bottom line.

"Artists don't want to perform at a place like Avondale Music Hall in front of 50 people," Bauman said.

Bauman also noted that the concert hall had to refund tickets for numerous events that had to be canceled when the venue had to close abruptly for the pandemic.

"Money is coming out because we are refunding tickets with no revenue coming in, but we're still having to pay real estate taxes, we're still having to pay insurances, utilities," he said.

It is concerning, especially when one considers the number of other venues in this exact same position.

"Ninety percent of all independent music venues will be closed within six months if there is no sort of relief," Bauman said.

Through Chicago's Independent Venue League, and the National Independent Venue Association, Bauman is part of the group trying to change that.

"We're asking Congress for some relief, we're talking to state legislators and the Governor's office to find some relief, and the City of Chicago, we're asking for waiving licenses and things," Bauman said. "Right now, we still have to pay those licenses."

They're not pushing to open. They're asking for that help so they're still around once it's safe to open again.

So Bauman's hope Tuesday night?

"We just want to be able to stick around to open our doors again," he said.

Bauman said he doesn't know of any venue like his that will open Friday.

The City of Chicago has put out specific guidelines for reopening safely when it comes to performance venues.

In addition to social distancing and masking requirements, they also advise that rows of seats for venues that have them should be decommissioned between groups and adequate visual signage should be posted about hygiene, social distancing, and proper personal protective equipment.

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Meanwhile Tuesday, the iconic Wrigleyville concert venue the Metro dispelled rumors that it is closing permanently. That came after various Facebook and Twitter users mourned what they thought was the loss of the concert venue.

Many of the tweets and posts after others stepped in to point out they referenced a post on the Metro's website that dates back to March – when they first announced a temporary closure for the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Hey y'all! While we appreciate your love and support, we wanted to go on record and inform you that Metro/smartbar/GMan Tavern are not permanently closed," the Metro posted. "We look forward to reopening when it is deemed safe to do so."

The Metro also urged people to visit to make sure it stays in business. The effort launched by the National Independent Venues Association also emphasizes that small music venues were the first to close for the pandemic and will be the last to reopen, and have no revenue in the meantime.

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