Tester, Carper Leading Bill to Help Montana’s Live Entertainment Industry Survive Pandemic

ENCORES Act will help small, independent music venues cover refunded ticket costs

With the live music industry shuttered across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) are pushing to make sure small, independent music and entertainment venues can survive until crowds can gather safely again.

The Senators today introduced the Entertainments New Credit Opportunity for Relief & Economic Sustainability (ENCORES) Act, a bill that will create a new tax credit for live entertainment venues with fewer than 500 employees to help cover the cost of refunded tickets for shows that were canceled due to the pandemic.

“Gathering in large crowds for live shows is something many Montanans are missing right now,” Tester said. “And without them, the folks who make a living keeping us entertained will be left out in the cold. This bill will fix that by making sure the owners and employees of our small, independent venues can weather this storm, and helps ensure they’ll be there to welcome folks back to experience the magic of live music once we’re on the other side of this crisis.”

“Like so many businesses across our country, live music venues have been forced to close their doors, leaving thousands of Americans without jobs and millions without the invaluable experiences they provide. These venues were some of the first businesses to close and, sadly, will be some of the last to fully reopen as our nation continues to grapple with an unprecedented pandemic,” said Senator Carper. “Today, I am joining Senator Tester to introduce the ENCORES Act, a bill that will provide much-needed relief for our live music venues by creating a tax credit to help cover refunded ticket costs due to canceled events. Music venues are truly special places that have, for generations, provided our families with priceless memories. It’s on us to do what we can to support this industry now so that we can come out on the other side of this pandemic and ensure that this will not be the day the music died.”

The ENCORES Act tax credit will allow music venues to recoup some of the loses they have experienced due to ticket refunds from canceled events. To be eligible for the credit, businesses must have offered a voucher to customers first, and customers opted for a refund instead.

Independent venue owners from across Montana thanked Tester for introducing the bill:

“Independent music venues were some of the first businesses to close, and will be among the last to reopen” said Sean Lynch, owner of Pub Station Presents in Billings. “Venues like the Pub Station not only add to the vibrancy of a community like Billings, MT, but we also play an important economic role to other small businesses. We drive patrons into restaurants, hotels and retail shopping. We cannot let the pandemic take away an arts and culture scene that so many communities have worked years to achieve.”

“As our industry faces an indefinite shutdown, the largest expense for independent venues and promoters is the cost of refunding tickets for shows that will not be able to happen to the foreseeable future,” said Nick Checota, owner of Logjam Presents and The Wilma Theater, Top Hat Lounge, and the KettleHouse Amphitheater in Missoula. “Senator Tester’s ENCORES Act would provide local venues like mine the help we need to face this challenge. Independent venues support surrounding local businesses and help foster the careers of performing artists. These small businesses contribute to thriving communities, and this legislation will help our industry navigate the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure we are still here on the other side to continue that work.”

Live entertainment is an economic multiplier for communities that benefit not only the music venues, but neighboring businesses like hotels, restaurants, and stores. Tester has previously urged Senate leadership for more support, including tax relief and debt assistance, to help these businesses survive the crisis. A bipartisan companion version of the ENCORES Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last week.

The ENCORES Act is available HERE.