Across the United States, live music venues are the heart of many communities — infusing the area with character and culture and contributing to its economic prosperity. From local acts making a name for themselves to bands on a national tour, fans flock to these beloved venues for immersive musical performances that larger arenas can’t provide.
Clay Grubb, the CEO of Grubb Properties, has always been a regular at live shows and a proponent for the local music scene. As an Aspen Institute fellow, he crossed paths with Dayna Frank, CEO of First Avenue, one of the nation’s leading independently owned and operated concert venue and promoters. During their fateful meeting they discussed their love of music and the challenges they wanted to help the industry tackle. This conversation started in January of 2020 — and their idea of the Live Venue Recovery Fund was born shortly after COVID-19 began sweeping the nation and stages went dark from coast to coast.
Pairing Clay’s real estate expertise with Dayna’s industry experience, they created an impact real estate fund to help live music venues. The ultimate goal of the Fund is to help independent operators become venue owners to ensure the long-term preservation of these venues.
To enable operators to buy their buildings, the Fund purchases the venue from the current landlord and then offers the operators favorable terms for buying it back that can be exercised over multiple years. The Fund also partners with venue operators to provide them with the capital to immediately address a range of challenges that were further exacerbated by the pandemic.
“While Grubb Properties is primarily a residential and office developer and owner, I’m a life-long live music fan and understand how important these venues are to the vibrancy of the communities in which they operate,” said Mr. Grubb. “This partnership offered a unique opportunity to make a difference not only in the wake of the pandemic but for years to come.”
Many venues across the nation have benefited from the Save Our Stage (SOS) Act that Congress passed in 2020. The bill provided six months of financial support to venue operators to keep them afloat and pay employees during COVID. However, the bill stipulated the funds could not be used toward the purchase of a venue. The Live Venue Recovery Fund addresses the crucial need for owners to have a viable path toward becoming owners, which also helps protect these buildings from redevelopment.
“Live music venues have been decimated by this pandemic, and while the Save Our Stages bill definitely helps in the short term, this Fund will be instrumental in ensuring the long-term viability and independence of some of this country’s most influential music venues,” said Ms. Frank.
The first acquisition of the Fund is Headliners Music Hall in Louisville, Kentucky. Capital has been provided to the operators to make property improvements while shows have been on pause, and the Fund also graced the venue with a rent-free period to help it weather the pandemic storm. Prior to officially establishing the fund, Grubb Properties had also previously helped re-establish the Visulite Theater in Charlotte, North Carolina and helped finance the newly revamped Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
When evaluating a venue, the Live Venue Recovery Fund looks for venues that are culturally significant to the communities in which they operate, susceptible to redevelopment, and that have strong financials prior to COVID with an innovative and strong operating team. If your venue is interested in participating, get more information at www.grubbproperties.com/investments.
The Fund is currently open to investors who are interested in helping preserve live music venues nationwide. As an impact fund, returns that exceed a 12 percent internal rate of return will be donated to the National Independent Venue Foundation (NIVF). The Foundation aims to preserve and nurture the ecosystem of U.S. independent live performance venues and promoters by supporting a transparent, competitive marketplace serving a diverse and inclusive community of artists, fans and works.