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'We'll Get Through This Together' Downtown Venues Reopen With help From Grants, Community

by Elizabeth Montgomery
Arts & Culture Bars & Nightlife Music & Events Uncategorized Elizabeth Montgomery August 26, 2021

Downtown Phoenix Inc. is partnering with the Orpheum Theatre for the film series “The Classics,” which will give audiences a never-before-seen look at classic films with the new sound system. (Photo: Orpheum Theatre)

For more than a year, several Downtown Phoenix event venues have been closed due to COVID-19. While the doors were closed, the Phoenix community came together to save the stages. Now, some venues are reopening – with caution and new shows.

Local promoter and vice president of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), Stephen Chilton of Psyko Steve Presents & the Rebel Lounge, helped lead the “Save Our Stages” fundraising campaign nationwide.

The campaign raised awareness to the lack of COVID-19 relief funding available to entertainment venues. Community members sent more than two million emails to local officials across the country in support.

“It was great to see a huge outpouring of support and seeing what all these intuitions mean to this community and how much we mean to artists and fans,” Chilton said of Phoenix. “NIVA raised $4 million for venues that were hit hard last year. We saved 300 venues.”

In addition to NIVA’s fundraising, the Save Our Stages Act was passed in December as part of a larger COVID-19 relief bill. It became the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, and to date, the U.S. Small Business Administration has awarded over $7.5 billion in grants to more than 10,000 hard-hit live entertainment small businesses, nonprofits and venues.

In Phoenix, grants have been awarded to Stand Up Live, Heard Museum, The Nash, Last Exit Live, FilmBar, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix Symphony, Valley Youth Theatre, Valley Bar and Crescent Ballroom.

“Everyone had to take on lots of debt or do things they didn’t want to do like furlough staff or take out a second mortgage, but with the Save Our Stages Act I think a lot of people held on longer than they thought they would have,” Chilton said.

“A very large team of people worked very hard to get to this point. People weren’t just trying to save themselves, they were trying to save each other. The only way we’ll get through this is together.”

Crescent Ballroom reopened to full capacity at the beginning of August, and will require its attendees to either be vaccinated against COVID-19, or have a confirmed negative COVID-19 test beginning September 20. (Photo: Crescent Ballroom)

Beloved venues Crescent Ballroom and Valley Bar reopen to full capacity

For Charlie Levy, co-owner of Valley Bar and Crescent Ballroom, the past year has been tough. However the support of the community and a hardworking staff has been incredible, he said.

“Everyone has been so supportive and really looking forward stopping by. They’ve missed the DJs, the events, the downtown community, being part of that and having good times,” Levy said.

“The team at Crescent and Valley Bar really get all the credit for getting things started from scratch again. They are the ones who do all the heavy lifting and have been dealing with a lot of adversity to get us where we are right now. It’s not over yet, but we’re pulling together and as a community we can get through these hard times.”

Both Valley Bar and Crescent Ballroom reopened to full capacity earlier this month and several shows are already sold out. The two venues are included in a group of Valley concerts, clubs and entertainment venues that will require its attendees to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or have a confirmed negative COVID-19 test by September 20.

Levy said it’s been exciting to see so many new faces downtown, coming to his bars to explore the city for the first time.

“It’s always great to see new people walk in Valley Bar, it’s truly a Phoenix bar, unique to Phoenix and a special introduction to the city,” he said. “You can’t say this bar reminds you of anything you’ve seen before, there’s nothing like it anywhere else,” he said.

The Orpheum reopens with upgrades 

While closed to the public, staff at the Orpheum Theatre were busy making upgrades for guests once they returned.

“Last year our talented production team upgraded our sound system with a new Yamaha RIVAGE PM7 digital mixing console and added a new venue speaker system,” said Jackie Davis, marketing and communications manager.

“Our hope is that guests feel nostalgic when watching digitally-remastered classics in a historic theater in the heart of downtown.”

Davis added that the theater’s “support arm,” Friends of the Orpheum Theatre, was an integral part in helping bring shows back to the stage through a film series.

Downtown Phoenix Inc. has recently partnered with Orpheum Theatre for the film series “The Classics,” which will give audiences a never-before-seen look at classic films with the new sound system.

The films are shown the last Tuesday of each month and kicks off Aug. 31 with “Casablanca.”

The series also includes “Some Like it Hot,” “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “Psycho.” Tickets can be purchased at

“We’ve raised the curtain again, and it feels great,” Davis said. “We have a must-see mix of performances, movies and events coming this fall. And, we’re committed to working with the event and show organizers with a common goal of safe and healthy events.”