Among the Los Angeles-area cultural institutions taking to GoFundMe to raise money during the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns is the city’s most famous music nightspot, the Troubadour, whose operators tell the Los Angeles Times that the venue “can’t foresee being able to ride this out” without significant help from donors.
“It looks tacky,” general manager Christine Karayan told the Times of the GoFundMe, “but it’s a reality at this point. It’s not a joke. If we’re going to survive this thing — and that’s a big if — we’re going to need all the help we can get, from any direction we can get it. … We know there’s going to be a huge fatality rate as far as how many venues will not be able to open again when/if this thing ever ends. We’re just looking to survive, like everybody else.”
The club’s GoFundMe page is identified as a “Troubadour Employee Relief Fund” and was started on April 2. Before the Times’ story appeared, it had gone little noticed and had collected less than $12,000 in more than a month, but the additional publicity quickly had donors refreshing its coffers.
Karayan told the newspaper that alarm bells about the club’s survival prospects were further set off by Governor Gavin Newsom’s newly announced four-stage plan for reopening California, which listed concerts as something that would only take place in the final stage of the state returning to normal.
Although the governor’s plan does not mention capacity limits, the set of projections for resuming business she is seeing “means the middle to the end of next year to potentially open, and maybe a 25% cap” on attendance, Karayan said. “I can’t foresee being able to ride this out like that. … The more I think about it, it’s just completely futile. At least a big seated venue has space where they can keep people apart. But I don’t know how that works for a general admission venue. Are you going to stop them from using the restroom?”
Karayan’s father, Ed Karayan, former partner of the late Doug Weston (whose name still appears on the marquee), owns the building, so eviction does not loom as an issue, as it does for so many other music clubs. Still, the GoFundMe is looking to raise money for 20 hourly employees, all but three of which have been laid off, according to the paper. The crowd-funding effort may be expanded, the club’s general manager said.
Karayan emphasized that although many customers and even people in the music industry assume the Troubadour is affiliated with AEG or Live Nation, the storied 500-capacity club has remained independent, just as it was when Elton John was legendarily introduced to America there (as dramatized, with liberties, in “Rocketman”). “We’re lumped in with the big boys, and we’re not the big boys,” she said. “We don’t have shareholders. We don’t have corporate money. We are what we are.”
Like many live venue operators, Karayan has been flummoxed as expectations for the resumption of concerts have been dramatically pushed back. “I was like… ‘We probably won’t have concerts until the end of the year, but it’s OK.’ … Now it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. We’re talking, potentially, the middle of next year.’”