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COVID Recovery ∙ Economy ∙ Jobs ∙ Culture ∙ Small Business

Support for NYC’s Nightlife and Cultural Sector

New York City is known for its nightlife, live music and performance experiences, drawing in tourists from all over the globe and supporting tens of thousands of jobs. According to the New York Independent Venue Association (NYIVA), NYC independent venues contribute $2.2 billion in economic output, and between $400- $500 million in tourism dollars. These are our local performing spots where so many of the greats got their start and where so many of our talented performers, musicians and artists come to share their work with New Yorkers and visitors. For nearly a year, these venues have been ordered to shut their doors with little to no guidance or support on how to stay afloat. Andrew Yang will invest in these cultural establishments and forge a collaborative working relationship in City Hall to ensure that, not only, they are able to thrive, but also that these cultural purveyors are leveraged as part of our city’s revival.

This plan lays out provisions to:

  • Secure CARES Act funding for local venues
  • Support operators, workers, performers, DJs and building jobs in the industry
  • Advocate to reduce SLA red tape
  • Find solutions to help build relationships with local communities to sustain a thriving nightlife, arts, entertainment and culture ecosystem

Advocate for Financial Support for independent live venues, nightclubs, DJs, performers and promoters.

Independent venues and performers contribute greatly to our culture. But according to a NIVA survey, 90% of independent venues will close permanently in the next few months without funding support from the government, resulting in a loss of 16,000 jobs. Venues have no revenue, but continue to incur expenses including rent, utilities, fixed debt, payroll and licensing fees. What’s worse is that many of these venues might not be able to access the federal Save our Stages funds and have been left out of other opportunities such as the NY Pops-Up event initiative, which feature many high-profile artists. Andrew Yang supports NYIVA’s call to the state to earmark 1.5% of the $5 billion Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) the state received from the March 30, 2020 CARES act --some of which is still unspent-- to create a $75 million fund to be used as a grant program and believes these funds should go toward live music venues, comedy clubs and nightlife establishments. Criteria for accessing the funds should be recipients who have fewer than 500 full-time employees, are not publicly traded companies and were in operation in NYS for the 12 months of 2019. Allowable expenses should include payroll and benefits, rent, utilities, mortgage and/or loan payments, interest payments, insurance, PPE, health and safety upgrades, existing loans, payments to 1099 employees and other necessary business expenses. Event promoters and presenters should also be eligible for funds as they are a crucial part of the live performance ecosystem. Or, at the very least, with as much as $70 billion in federal aid will shortly be coming to New York State, the Governor and legislature should set aside $75 million this time to go directly to independent venues. 

Andrew Yang will take a purpose-driven approach to regulation and oversight.

The city cannot balance its checkbooks on the backs of small businesses and venues. For too long, operators of all types of businesses—including nightlife venues—have lived in fear of almost constant inspections. A Yang administration will enact a one-year moratorium on fines and will establish CURE (Collaborative Uniform Repair Enforcement), a multi-agency approach to proactively supporting businesses to cure violations rather than issue fines. Read more about our plan for relief for small businesses here.

Support common sense commercial protections

Andrew Yang supports legislation that was already passed in Albany to halt evictions for small businesses that demonstrate a financial hardship until May 1, which mirrors the ban on residential evictions that is already in place. 

Call on the State to renew SLA licenses without fees until March 2022.

Restaurants that are struggling due to the pandemic should not have to worry about liquor license renewal fees that can cost thousands of dollars. Andrew Yang will advocate for the New York State Liquor Authority to alleviate the burden on restaurants by automatically renewing liquor licenses until March 2022. Additionally, they should retroactively waive liquor license fees that they have allowed to be deferred since the beginning of the pandemic and refund any payments made after March 2020. 

Advocate to streamline outdated processes for renewing a license with the SLA.

Moreover, those seeking liquor license renewal in New York City must currently give thirty days notice to the Community Board, a requirement imposed only in New York City, and file seven days before a license expires, a hard deadline determined based on the day of filing not the day of mailing. These requirements make things more difficult for struggling restaurant owners. A Yang administration would support waiving the Community Board notice until the end of 2021 as restaurants recover from the pandemic and then reevaluating its appropriateness going forward. As mailing time can be unpredictable, the seven-day filing deadline is an unreasonable burden on license holders and a Yang administration would call for its revision instead, calculating the days based on the mailing date. 

Reduce bureaucratic hurdles faced by business owners by making it easier to host live performances.

Community boards play an important role in ensuring safety and quality of life for our neighborhoods. But in recent years, the State Liquor Authority (SLA) has leaned heavily on a community board's recommendation on whether a bar, restaurant, cafe, or entertainment venue should get a liquor license. One major roadblock is a question on the standardized notice form to a Community Board, which requires that a venue indicate if they expect to host live music. This question is ostensibly asked to reduce noise and quality of life issues in the neighborhood; a worthy goal. However, there is little evidence that live music causes negative quality of life issues or would reach any higher decibel levels than prerecorded music, which is not subject to the same scrutiny. Live music is viewed by the World Economic Forum as a “core urban indicator,” as it has been found to promote economic growth and job creation. Music participation has substantial health benefits and is a significant social determinant of health. Live music has also been found to be socially and culturally valuable to communities, promoting a sense of local identity and cultural vibrancy. These are the opportunities a Yang administration will fight to forge for performing artists, business owners and NYC residents. However, it is important to support communities and address their concerns when there are bad actors who negatively impact quality of life. To that end, Andrew Yang supports programs such as the Mediating Establishment and Neighborhood Disputes (MEND) that provides free mediation and conflict resolution services to address neighborhood disputes. 

Implement an “Agent of Change” Principle in City Planning.

In NYC, nightlife venues and local residents are often in contention. But it does not have to be this way. Through smart city planning and simple soundproofing technology, we can mitigate community tensions and allow our local cultural venues to exist in harmony with their neighbors. In 2018, then City Council Member Rafael Espinal introduced legislation called “the Agent of Change” that would require new nighttime establishments and new residential buildings that face commercial establishments be fitted with soundproof windows and walls or to cover the cost of their neighbors soundproofing, whichever is more financially feasible. Other global cities such as London and Melbourne have already required this as part of their planning and building processes. Andrew Yang will work with the City Council, labor unions, community members and nightlife operators in seeing this legislation through to completion to ensure that both residential buildings and performance spaces can thrive in coexistence. 

Fund public arts projects and capitalize on the value artists can bring to solving the city’s challenges.

A Yang administration would set aside a portion of funds to be used toward public arts projects such as murals, concerts and more through the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York to help the city rebuild, with particular emphasis on diversity and inclusion. The city itself is an employer and convenor of artists, for example through the Public Arts in Residence (PAIR) Program, in which the Department of Cultural Affairs embeds artists in city government to propose and implement creative solutions to pressing civic challenges. Yang agrees with the philosophy that artists are creative problem solvers. In 2019, only four artists were awarded this prestigious opportunity. A Yang administration will invest in this program to expand opportunities for artists and channel their creative problem solving abilities to the betterment of our city post-COVID-19. We must ensure that artists who participate in the program are listened to and that their input is actually heard and used. A Yang administration will also look for other ways to create work opportunities for artists to put more money in their pockets while facilitating their contributions to our city’s recovery.

Launch a music census.

The music economy is incredibly important to New York’s culture and identity. But we do not have accurate data of how many people work in the music business and what their needs are. Especially after the pandemic, it will be important to assess the needs of artists in our communities. A Yang administration will launch a music census in collaboration with a local university to study the health of the local music industry in New York and then create a comprehensive picture with the data, including policy recommendations to support musicians’ recovery. Other cities such as Austin, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. have executed on their own music census, which has helped study the climate of the industry, the needs of musicians, and contributed to public policy to support artists.

Andrew Yang will host an outdoor celebration in every borough, when it’s safe.

New Yorkers are tired of staying in. We’ve missed experiencing cultural life with one another, and there is nowhere more social and fun than New York. Has any city produced more iconic musicians and performers? Once the health experts finally declare the state of emergency is officially over, and it’s safe to congregate, a Yang administration will host outdoor celebrations in each borough to celebrate the end of the deadly pandemic and look toward a brighter future. In 2019, three hundred thousand people gathered for a ticker tape parade to celebrate the US Women’s National Team World Cup victory. This celebration will be ten times bigger, and spread across the whole city. Imagine the excitement of that event in every borough celebrating the end to COVID-19 while remembering those we lost.


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