Neumos in Seattle, in a Pandemic: Feeling ‘Saved’ After Getting Venue Grant

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As co-owner of Seattle’s popular independent venue Neumos in Capitol Hill, Steven Severin has been a staple in the Seattle music industry for more than 20 years. Roughly 10 years ago, he helped create the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association to bring together the area’s live event insiders, and for the past 16 years has helped run Neumos with its sister club Barboza and the accompanying Runaway bar.

As part of Billboard’s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we have been speaking with Severin regularly to chronicle his experience throughout the crisis. (Read the last installment here and see the full series here.)

Have you received your Shuttered Venue Operator grant yet?

I found out Friday (July 9) at 5pm, which was great because I was going into the weekend in a really bad mood. I was thinking I was going into another weekend, not having gotten it. Then I believe it was Tuesday (July 13) morning that we got the actual wire, so it was fast. Once we got the notice, we got the money a couple business days later. 

Did you have to fill out any additional paperwork? 

Yeah, but nothing major. It was pretty simple from there. I started texting people that I owed money to.  

How did it feel to finally get the funds?

I was so excited the day I found out that we were getting [the funds] and then I got busy and tired again. Actually getting it, I was like, ‘This is crazy. It is actually here.’ I was stoked for 24 hours and then I just wanted to sleep forever. I was totally pumped and then I went into pure exhaustion finally letting it all go.  

It is hard to complain because we got saved, but the cost it took from us…it’s crazy. I do not look healthy right now. [laughs] I look like hell. Mentally and physically, this was tough. Hearing about all the other people who aren’t qualifying because they aren’t really music venues or promoters or whatever it is, but they are still businesses. Even if they don’t qualify for this, it still sucks. There are so many people who didn’t get help, so I don’t feel like I have any place to be complaining.

Does it feel like you were “saved?” 

Yes. That is the word – saved. I mentioned this to the NIVA folks that I want to change our slogan to #SavedOurStages [instead of #SaveOurStages]. That is what we did. That is the work we put in and so many good humans made this happen. We’re going to be able to keep going. We’re going to be able to pay all the money we owe. That’s pretty awesome. And we will have it for buying things going forward to take care of things. We are on week three now [of being open] and they aren’t creating enough liquor in the state right now to meet the demand. Somebody was joking the other day that they think they have the only bottle of Patron in the county. All this product is gone. I don’t think the manufacturers were ready for what was going to happen because July 1(the day Washington state lifted most restrictions) hit and people went out. They partied. There was so much pent up and they just let loose. So there are lots of spots that have had trouble getting different types of booze.  

How are shows doing at your venues? 

Amazing. Every single thing sells out. It’s mostly been local shows like dance nights and live shows. On the weekends we usually have a live show and then a dance night afterwards. People are so thankful that we are back. It has mostly been weekends when we are doing stuff, but as we get into August it will pick up more. Once we hit September, it is on. We’ll be back to 30 days a month.  

Are you booking mostly new shows or are you hosting a lot of rescheduled performances? 

It’s a combination. Some stuff went away completely. Some stuff rescheduled. Lots of new stuff. Some stuff is coming back to Seattle and going to a bigger venue because during the pandemic the artist got bigger. It’s really all over the map. Some stuff has been rescheduled for 2022.  

Is there a booking rush right now? 

After September we are booked out for a long time. There are so many holds that there is no way that all the artists that want to play are going to get dates. Everybody is going back out at the same time.  

soul, classic soul, motown,