Local music venues among many nationally in jeopardy

Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 11:37 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Each month, even when nobody’s there, Duling Hall faces a $1,200 electric bill. That’s the tip of the expense iceberg.

“We have ongoing expenses, I mean, the rent is still due, power still has to be on, so on so forth, and we’re closed,” said Arden Barnett, founder and owner of Ardenland entertainment company. Barnett says 80-90 percent of around 2,000 venues in jeopardy nationally could shut down in the next four to six months.

It could be spring before Duling Hall and Ardenland are up and running again if everything works out. But the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus makes it impossible to book bands or plan big events. And it’s not just Duling Hall.

“Hal & Mals, Martins, Proud Larry’s, Ricks in Starkville. All of these people, we’re all in the same boat,” he said. “We’re all facing the exact same problem, we all do live music, we’re all in somewhat of a ‘What the heck’ state.”

The solution may lie in the Restart Act, which is a push for legislators to turn some help toward local venues in their time of crisis. That nationally, and in Mississippi, there’s the reminder of what local music means.

“Mississippi, we’ve been driving around with car tags that say ‘Birthplace of America’s Music,' which is so true. And you look back at the history of every artist that comes through here, they didn’t just go play in arenas. They started out on a stage just like this behind me,” he said.

Barnett is pleading for music lovers to write your senator or congressman, calling it a “desperate situation.” He said there is a form online that can be filled out that goes straight to lawmakers.

“We’re going to make it through this, it’s going to be hard,” Barnett said.

He said Duling Hall is still available for special events.

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