Tulsa Music Venues Struggling During Pandemic

Tuesday, September 15th 2020, 6:43 am
By: Cal Day

The owners of Tulsa music venues are struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If music is going to survive, it’s going to take intervention and assistance,” said Bobby Orcutt, owner of Mercury Lounge in Tulsa.

Orcutt told News On 6 his lounge closed March 17 and did not open their doors again until May.

Since then, the Mercury Lounge was forced to furlough or layoff half of the staff. They have even adjusted business hours to a point where only one staff member is needed each day.

Across the street is The Venue Shrine owned by lifelong Tulsa resident Donnie Rich. He also owns another lounge in Tulsa.

He said this industry has been his livelihood, and the pandemic has made it a struggle to survive. His venue has seen a lack of crowds and gigs because of a lack of tourist traffic.

Rich said arts are the backbone of Tulsa.

“We’re kids at a bus stop trying to figure out who’s going to pick us up,” said Rich. “Financially, our overhead alone is three times the amount we’re able to bring in.”

Lounge owners are now starting a new initiative called “Save our Stages.” Their hope is to get more support, including funding.

The Red Dirt Relief Fund is a non-profit organization stepping in to help struggling Oklahoma musicians and venue owners during the pandemic. Since March, they have given nearly $150 thousand to almost 600 individual musicians in Oklahoma.

“If the venues go away then there’s no place for the musicians to work and so it’s a very symbiotic relationship,” said Katie Dale, Red Dirt Relief Fund Executive Director. “We’ve got to keep these places open so that when the world comes back to life, we have a place to go and be together again.”

Dale told News On 6 money has been given to musicians from all walks of life, from members of the symphony to members in bands at Life Church.

Dale called the pandemic the greatest crisis in music history. She said it is important to help musicians and venues because music is the fabric of Tulsa.

Dale said you can help musicians and venues struggling at this time by buying merchandise or donating virtual tips to websites. Many of the venues have launched online fundraisers to help stay afloat.

For more information about the Red Dirt Relief Fund click here.