ONE OF Bellingen's most popular live music venues, the Bellingen Brewery, has just received a $47,701 grant through round two of the Live Music Australia program.
Owner operator, Rain Foran, says he couldn't be happier with the cash boost, and hopes to put the funds to good use very soon.
"I'm super pumped that the proposal was successful, and that my efforts to create a premium live music destination in the heart of Bellingen are being recognised," he said.
"Since taking over as the sole owner a few years ago, I've worked really hard to make the brewery a place worth visiting, both for locals and travellers.
"I'm planning to use the grant to book some bigger artists that would normally be out of my price range for a venue of my size, punch above my weight a little.
"I'm also looking at upgrading the stage, sound equipment, and some other things in the building to help musicians put on the best performance they can."
Rain has grand plans, but says the moment is bittersweet, because in the current climate, with COVID-19 restrictions snapping down at a moment's notice, it's become almost impossible to put on a large live music event.
So the community might be waiting a long time before they can enjoy the benefits of the grant.
"It's a bit like getting a new boat, but the engine is broken," Rain said.
"I have mixed emotions about the whole situation, getting the grant is really positive, and exciting, but with COVID-19 restrictions, I'm very limited with what I can do.
"I'm trying to reset, redirect, and evolve with the times, but it's tough when the rules keep changing at a moment's notice.
"Navigating the restrictions feels like trying to walk around on your hands sometimes."
Rain was already forced to shut down for nine months last year, and while he was able to start offering takeaway food to try and stay afloat, many other venues don't have the same luxury.
"The live music scene is struggling, and it's hard to stomach when you see a stadium full of football fans enjoying what they love to do unhindered, but music venues have all these caps on attendance and other restrictions," he said.
"It's worse for the artists, they are constantly having gigs cancelled. Normally the brewery would have shows booked out for the next 12 months, but we've had to hold back this year, it's become too hard to organise something a few weeks in advance, let alone months in advance."
Rain fears that if more isn't done to protect live music establishments, there might not be any left when COVID-19 restrictions have their final curtain call.
"I'm happy that I received a grant, but I would like to see more support for small businesses, and live music venues in general," Rain said.
"When this is all over, people who don't enjoy watching football, people who enjoy something with a creative flare, will need something to come back to.
"Big businesses are being gifted millions in grants and other benefits to keep their doors open, but smaller businesses are being left to fend for themselves, or given small sums that barely cover rent."
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