The coronavirus pandemic has for the meantime put an end to a lot of the things that make life whole. If we’re not careful, some of them may never come back in quite the same way.

Just one example is the live entertainment business, an industry that depends on the mass gatherings that are now off-limits in many states — and ill-advised everywhere. With no way to make money now and no end in sight to the pandemic, independent music venues and theaters are in the midst of an existential crisis.

Some, including Boston’s legendary Great Scott and now Port City Music Hall in Portland, have already closed for good. If nothing is done, more will follow, and something vibrant and beneficial will be lost in a lot of communities.

Port City Music Hall, a 550-person venue, announced its closing this week, saying it could no longer survive without revenue from the 15 to 20 shows it puts on each month, showcasing national acts while hosting a lot of notable Maine-based artists.

Another Portland venue, One Longfellow Square, was saved only by a $175,000 fundraising campaign, an avenue not open to most. A survey by the Maine Arts Commission found the sector collectively millions of dollars in the hole and bleeding jobs, echoing what is being found throughout the country.

Places like Port City Music Hall help make cities like Portland. They are part of an arts scene that draws young people and provides energy and spirit. They brighten neighborhoods, and the money spent there reverberates through the local economy.

In other communities, small independent venues may be the only place to see live music. They may be one of the only sources of nighttime entertainment, and one of the only outlets for local artistic talent.

And once they’re gone, it won’t be easy for something to step in and take its place. It’s comforting to think that a business could take a months-long hiatus and be able to switch everything back on once the pandemic is in our rearview, but that’s not the case. People’s lives change, and they move on. So does investment. The personal and business relationships that drive the live entertainment business, most of which took years to nurture, melt away and are not easily rebuilt.

If we want the live entertainment industry and others facing similar challenges to come out of the pandemic somewhat intact, Congress has to act.

Congress is now considering a number of bills that would help the industry, including the Save Our Stages Act, which would provide six months of financial support to music venues and theaters.

Congress is now debating the next coronavirus relief package. Aid for the industry must be included in any final deal, as it must be for all the industries that are struggling precisely and only because of the need to keep people safely apart during the pandemic.

Otherwise, we’ll come through the other end, and find we’re missing something important.


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