Small Business Administration (SBA) public records show First Avenue Productions, which recently canceled an iconic comedian and cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department, received almost $10 million under the “Save Our Stages Act.”
The act was the result of efforts by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Save Our Stages was designed to help independent live music venues stay afloat during the pandemic. It was endorsed and lobbied for by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which was founded by a group of venue owners, including First Avenue CEO Dayna Frank.
The $16 billion program was bundled into President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan and disbursed as Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG) through the SBA.
More than 200 venues in Minnesota received SVOG money, according to SBA records. Grants ranged from $10 million to just over $2,000.
Prior to receiving the funding, First Avenue announced on Twitter it would no longer use off-duty Minneapolis police officers for security at special events and concerts following the death of George Floyd in 2020.
“The safety of our guests, artists, and staff is paramount. For that reason, First Avenue Productions will not contract security with off-duty officers through the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD),” the music venue tweeted. “We will instead work with local organizations who represent our community, and who will protect and affirm Black and Brown lives. The murder of George Floyd has made it abundantly clear that the presence of off-duty MPD officers at our events will not guarantee the safety of our patrons and does not support our community or our values as an organization.”
The venue caved to cancel culture this week after receiving backlash for hosting comedian Dave Chappelle, who is disliked by some because of his jokes about transgender people. The venue canceled the show hours before it was slated to start.
On Wednesday, First Avenue tweeted: “We hear you. Tonight’s show has been cancelled at First Avenue and is moving to the Varsity Theater.”
We hear you. Tonight’s show has been cancelled at First Avenue and is moving to the Varsity Theater. See our full statement for more. pic.twitter.com/tkf7rz0cc7
— First Avenue (@FirstAvenue) July 20, 2022
Tickets to Chappelle’s Wednesday performance sold out within five minutes. Varsity Theater scheduled additional shows due to “overwhelming demand.”
Crime Watch reported that a handful of protesters gathered outside of Varsity Theater for Wednesday night’s show.
One person told Crime Watch that “protesters threw eggs” at people in line, “defaced the side of the Kollege Klub with vulgar language,” and harassed show-goers as they stood in line. Crime Watch said there was a “melee” reported outside of Chappelle’s Thursday night show at the Varsity.
Police report 50 to 70 people at the Varsity Theater protesting the Dave Chappelle show.
— CrimeWatchMpls (@CrimeWatchMpls) July 21, 2022
First Avenue also owns and operates The Depot Tavern, the 7th St Entry, the Turf Club, the Fine Line, The Fitzgerald Theater, and co-operates the Palace Theatre.
Alpha News reached out to First Avenue Productions but did not hear back before press time.