The first Milwaukee entertainment venues are closing down for good because of the coronavirus pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic is claiming some of its first entertainment casualties in Milwaukee.
The owners of Fire on Water and Underground Collaborative, two venues that operated for nearly 11 years and for eight years respectively, both announced Monday that they were closing their doors for good.
"It’s been a difficult time for everyone in this industry," reads a post on the Fire on Water Facebook page from owner Adam Griffin. "For us, it comes with an additional complication of bad timing as our lease is up and without a better idea of what the rules and regulations look like in the short or long term, it makes it impossible to continue on the path we were on without knowing whether this is still a sustainable model moving forward."
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The owners said they were hoping to have "a proper sendoff" before closing down officially at the end of the month.
Underground Collaborative founder Matt Kemple said in a press release that because the business can't sell tickets to public events or rent the venue to performing arts groups for the foreseeable future, it would be unable to stay in business.
Underground Collaborative, on the lower level of the Plankinton Building at the Avenue, welcomed about 15,000 people and hosted about 140 events each year, including the annual Milwaukee Comedy Festival. The 8,000-square-foot space included a 100-seat theater, art gallery, recording studio, dance studio, and various rehearsal and practice rooms.
“I hope in some way the Underground Collaborative has fulfilled its purpose to provide resources for performers, artists and creatives, and been a hub for live performances that brought the community together to laugh, cry and feel inspired by the amazing talent we have in Milwaukee," Kemple wrote in a letter to supporters.
Performing arts and live music came to a screeching halt in Milwaukee and around the world in mid-March. With Wisconsin's stay-at-home order over, live music is coming back to some bars, campsites, restaurants and other businesses around the state, but stay-at-home orders continue in Milwaukee and Madison, and the live music and performing arts industries are still largely frozen.
As a result, more than 1,700 independent music venues and promoters have joined a new organization, the National Independent Venues Association, co-founded by Pabst Theater Group CEO Gary Witt, to lobby Congress for support. More than 90% of members have reported that they do not have enough money to stay open in six months without federal intervention.
Piet also talks concerts, local music and more on "TAP'd In" with Jordan Lee. Hear it at 8 a.m. Thursdays on WYMS-FM (88.9), or wherever you get your podcasts.