Black Lab Gallery in Everett will live-stream concerts on weekends while its doors are closed. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Black Lab Gallery in Everett will live-stream concerts on weekends while its doors are closed. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

COVID-19 outbreak puts venue owners in a fight for survival

Some Snohomish County theaters and nightclubs are turning to live-streaming and online fundraisers.

Snohomish County entertainment venues are caught in an existential crisis.

They’re closed until at least March 31, following Gov. Jay Inslee’s order to shut down theaters, bars, restaurants and more to slow the spread of COVID-19. Gatherings of 50 or more people also are prohibited.

The shutdown forced venue owners to find new ways to entertain the community — and bring in some money. In Everett, Black Lab Galley and the Historic Everett Theatre plan to live-stream events.

But the revenue — whether it be donations or payments to stream — is expected to be far less than what is needed to stay open.

“It’s destroying us,” said Curt Shriner, manager of the Historic Everett Theatre. “I think the entertainment industry is taking a huge hit.”

Venues including Historic Everett Theatre, Edmonds Center for the Arts, Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish and Northshore Performing Arts Center in Bothell have canceled or postponed events scheduled through March.

The timing couldn’t be worse for Everett’s 119-year-old theater. Shriner, who has operated the 800-seat venue since 2014, has been working hard to preserve it. But the theater could be put up for sale later this year if revenue continues to dip.

He set up a GoFundMe campaign, “Saving the Grand Old Lady,” to help with operational costs. As of Wednesday, it had raised just $1,619 of its $50,000 goal.

Shriner said it costs at least $25,000 per month to operate the theater. He’s applied for financial help from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

He said the chances of saving the theater are less than 50/50.

“I’m doing everything I can,” Shriner said. “I don’t know what else to do.”

Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater also is hurting. Since 2003, the theater has organized concerts, open mic nights, comedy improv and other events throughout the year. Donations and ticket sales help keep the nonprofit theater open.

Even before Inslee’s order, the Thumbnail closed its doors to protect audiences, knowing it would lose between $200 and $450 in revenue per show.

“We are all just shellshocked like everyone else,” said Sharon “Corkie” Cordisco, theater manager. “It doesn’t look promising.”

She said it costs about $2,500 per month to operate the theater. Right now, the Thumbnail only has about $6,000 in the bank.

“We will make it through this month and part of next month, but we will have to dip into our capital fund after that,” Cordisco said. “This won’t be sustainable.”

She’s hopeful that donations will keep the theater open, but acknowledged that other businesses and organizations are just as needy.

“As important as the arts are, you can’t put into words how monumental the needs are for the rest of the community,” she said. “It just seems like a drop in the bucket.”

Before the outbreak, Black Lab Gallery in Everett put on live shows almost every weekend and hosted art exhibits. Nicole Valenica, booking manager, said the plan — at least until April 1 — will be to live-stream concerts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitch at 6 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. The first show Saturday is a free concert by Everett’s Oliver Elf Army.

During live streams, Valencia plans to post links to donate to Black Lab Gallery and purchase artists’ music and merchandise. She said she’ll find ways to support visual artists, too.

“In this time of quarantine, a lot of people can’t go anywhere,” Valencia said. “Even if it doesn’t get the results we need that a normal show would, we still want to provide for our musicians, our visual artists and our community that supports us.”

At Bothell’s 600-seat Northshore Performing Arts Center, managing director John Lehrack said “an awful lot of tickets” were refunded in the wake of the coronavirus spread. Performances by two of the venue’s most popular shows, Rise Up, a “Hamilton” tribute band, and AbbaFab, an Abba tribute band, were postponed. The Rise Up show is now set for May 31. AbbaFab is rescheduled for Oct. 3.

“Hopefully, people will be able to go to things by then,” he said.

Lehrack said he’s not sure how much revenue the theater lost, but it could be as much as $20,000.

“That impacts our ability to go forward,” he said. “Fortunately, we’ve always been in the black.”

Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, ethompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.

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