Update: Local Music Under Threat in Cleveland

December 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

As many of you know, Cleveland is home to the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ this may, in fact, be the only thing you know about Cleveland. The truth is, rock-and-roll and music in general in Cleveland is, in many cases, on its last leg. Perhaps Cleveland’s best venue, the Beachland Ballroom, has been described as ‘the club that saved North Collinwood’ and it has. Not only has it ‘saved’ North Collinwood form the upwards 20% vacancy that exist in the surrounding neighborhood but it has spurred businesses like Native Cleveland, a locally owned clothing/ craft/ jewelry store that supports Cleveland artists, and one of my favorite stores in all of Cleveland, Music Saves, one of the only independent music shops in all of Cleveland. In addition to these two, now staple, businesses in the neighborhood it has seen arts spaces pop-up and cafe’s come and go.

So what is the big deal with the Beachland Ballroom you might ask? Well, they owe the city $400,000 in back-taxes and the owners have lost nearly $100,000 dollars since opening up in 2000.  How can this be, that one of the most beloved music venues, with two stages – two bars, a full dinner menu – of really good food, one of the best thrift and record stores in Cleveland (located in the basement)?

In 2004, everyone favorite music venue came to Cleveland, the House of Blues.

“The Beachland’s fiery relationship with House of Blues cooled a few years back when a new corporate parent there instituted more conservative booking policies aimed more at making money than making a splash. But the Beachland still totes debt from its fallow years — debt that Leddy wistfully says they hope to retire eventually.

But for now they’re busy dousing the flames of a new crisis. In recent years, the city of Cleveland overhauled its longstanding admissions tax on event tickets; in 2009 it passed legislation to step up enforcement of the 8 percent tax.”

This tax, when applied to small, locally owned and operated venues such as the Beachland Ballroom, create situations where they simply cannot complete. Instead of favoring a locally owned business that has spurred innovation, entrepreneurship, and the re-birth of a neighborhood, Cleveland City council instead showed their support for The House of Bummer.

Their response:

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So far, there has been some hopeful progress to adjust the tax-rate for ‘small-venues’ which the Beachland would qualify as but the larger issue at hand is the role government ought to play, or not play, in advancing and fostering small independent business growth.

“$100.00 spent at a national retailer yielded a return of about $15.00 to the local economy. However when that same $100.00 is spent with a local retailer it returns about $45.00 or 3 times as much income to the local economy.”

It not only makes ideological sense but it makes fiscal sense, and as I have been told, money talks. So let it talk here in the case of North Collinwood. In late July of this year, Waterloo was hand-picked from over 12 Cleveland neighborhoods to receive a half-million dollar grant from the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture. This half million dollars went to ‘provide a small loan program for artists buying or rehabbing homes in the target area, a small grant program to support artists’ work in carrying out community-based projects, and artist home ownership services such as credit counseling and saving programs.’ (FreshWaterCleveland.com) Where would North Collinwood be without the Beachland? Think of your city, and your venue, where would the surrounding blocks be without it as a placeholder for culture and vibrancy?

The Creative Workforce Fellowship – One Story, Many Voices from CPAC on Vimeo.

Localism is no longer simply an ideology, it is a reality that we need to own up to an begin practicing. Supporting local business has never been so vital to the determination of a city. Find your Beachland, frequent it, support the mom and pop shops and even the pop-ups. They go a lot further in making a city a community that one would think.

UPDATE: “The Cleveland Music Club Coalition was founded last year in opposition to the 8 percent tax, which is assessed on tickets purchased for concerts and other events. Founding members include the Agora, Brothers Lounge, the Beachland, Happy Dog, Now That’s Class, and Peabody’s. And reinforcements are on the way.

“The Barking Spider has already signed on,” says Happy Dog’s Sean Watterson, the group’s de facto leader. “We’ve got Hoopples, Stone Madd, the Bop Stop, the Roc Bar, Prosperity. We’re reaching out to more clubs.”

Musicians, too, are uniting in support of their venues — and they’re getting artsy about it: On February 10, each member club will host a concert dedicated to educating people about the tax. It’ll be kinda like Schoolhouse Rock, but without the trippy cartoons.” From the Cleveland Scene.

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