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Pleas to "Save Our Stages" from Wichita and other entertainment venue owners

KAKE | Pilar Pedraza

WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - While most Wichita small businesses reopened after the March shutdown some are still closed nine months later. The owner of one took his plea for help to the U.S. Senate Tuesday.

The Cotillion is a Wichita institution, but the lights on the stage have been off for most of the last nine months and the owner says it could be another nine months before they get the chance to turn them back on again.

“Mr. Hartke, fellow Kansan, welcome to our subcommittee hearing,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, while introducing Adam Hartke to the Senate Commerce sub-committee.  “I look forward to your testimony.”

Hartke owns the Wave and the Cotillion in Wichita, two concert halls shuttered because of the pandemic for months.

He’s pushing for approval of a program called Save Our Stages with aid designed specifically for entertainment venues which have been mostly unable to continue operations with group size limits in place.

“Opening at 30-40% capacity, we’re losing money immediately.  We actually tried that back in June. We opened briefly for about three weeks. We booked a bunch of local bands and we lost more money than…we did in just hibernation mode,” Hartke told Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, in answer to a question about why the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program wasn’t enough.

He says those forgivable loans don’t work for the entertainment business model. For one, they just weren’t enough to last.

“Unlike many industries, we rely on the national reopening before we can resume operations as artists have to tour across the country,” Hartke said.

He added that even once the economy begins to recover the concert touring industry will lag behind because it takes several months to book a tour and sell the tickets before the act comes to town.

KAKE News spoke with Hartke after he told his story to the senators on the Commerce Sub-committee.  He said he jumped at the chance to speak because time is running out.

“Venues are closing all over the country almost daily,” Hartke said.  “Many are just holding on by a thread and hoping that Save Our Stages will pass and, if not, then they're done.”

Hartke joined other venue owners from across the country as well as representatives of the roadies and bus companies who move acts from site to site and others involved in promoting and putting a concert on the stage.

He says he’s hopeful Congress will include the Save Our Stages Act in any phase four aid plan.

“We've been included on both bills that Democrats and Republicans submitted as well as the bipartisan group,” he said.  “So, I am very hopeful.”