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Sen. Schumer, Seinfeld Combine Forces, Call On Feds To Help Save City Entertainment Venues Hurt By COVID-19

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- An effort to save live entertainment venues in New York City is being pushed by a senator and a TV legend.

Sen. Chuck Schumer and Jerry Seinfeld teamed up Sunday to call on the federal government to help, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported.

Posters outside the Gotham Comedy Club on 23rd Street advertise shows that date back to March. All 65 of its workers are out of work. The club is one of many stages in the city that are in trouble.

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Janeane Garofalo and Tracy Morgan are some of the famous faces who graced the stage of The Stand New York before COVID-19 shut it and other independent venues down.

Six months later, co-owner Paul Italia told CBS2, "We're probably a couple weeks from going out of business completely."

Italia said not seeing the weekly 1,000 customers has decimated his business. A few of his 50 employees are working thanks to a Paycheck Protection Program loan, as he's able to serve food.

"For some reason or another the state has decided that comedy, itself, is somehow very dangerous or is somewhat more of a spreader of the virus than sitting at a restaurant eating inside," Italia said, adding, "When you think about New York ... comedy, jazz, live music, we're on the brink of extinction and I do not believe people understand that."

Schumer said venues from comedy to music and more are in peril due to COVID-19 shutting them down. But through the "Save Our Stages Act," $10 billion in federal relief money would go to businesses that produce live events. Grants of up to $12 million would be eligible through the Small Business Administration to help cover the last six months of operating expenses.


Standing by comedian Seinfeld, Schumer said New York would see the lion's share of the funding, given that it's such a central part of the economy. The senator said there are 28 bipartisan supporters, but the bill would be folded into a larger economic relief bill.

"I think that the pressure that is mounting on those who opposed this, mainly on the Republican side, is such that they will come back," Schumer said. "And if it happens there will be money for localities and money for Save Our Stages."

Seinfeld said he got his start at Gotham Comedy Club and explained just how important the industry is to the fabric of the Big Apple.

"It gives the city energy and electricity and it's more than just a business, it is the spark of our culture here in this town," Seinfeld added. "When you come into Manhattan as a performer, and you stand in front of New York audiences, you find out if you're good enough to actually have a career in the arts."

Schumer cited a study that says 90% of independent venues will have to close without federal funding.

"Hundreds of thousands of people either work at these clubs or are artists who get their income from these clubs," Schumer said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked about the live events industry on Sept. 9. He responded saying, "Your basic question is 'Would you be willing to take more risk?' If the infection rate stays down, you can take more risk."

A spokesperson said the concern with live events is that they encourage people to congregate and mingle and, as timed events, attendees arrive and depart at generally the same time, creating congestion at points of ingress/egress. Cuomo's office said it will continue to monitor the situation and work on guidance that will mitigate the risks. In the meantime, if a liquor license allows, incidental music is allowed at restaurants, as long as it is secondary to the meal and not a main draw.

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