DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Artistic. Eclectic. The epitome of urban cool. Now, Dallas’ Deep Ellum arts community is also in deep trouble.
“I’m terrified that we won’t be able to outlast this,” said John LaRue, co-owner Deep Ellum Art Company. “The last seven months, it’s been really difficult to keep the arts alive down here in Deep Ellum.”
Like any small business, LaRue and his co-owner wife prepared to struggle at first. And during the first few months of 2020 it appeared that they were turning a corner — then came COVID-19.
“We got a little bit of PPE money that was gone in two months,” said LaRue. “We’re behind tens of thousands of dollars in rent, we took out a $150,000 SBA loan that starts to come due on 5/05/21, and we’re plowing through that every single month just trying to keep the lights on and keep our staff intact… it’s very disheartening.”
Experts say the economic eco-systems in arts communities are closely connected — so when one sector hurts, so do they all. So, they’re urging lawmakers to pass another stimulus package that also includes support for small businesses and the arts.
“It’s not just our bars and restaurants,” says Stephanie Keller Hudiburg, Executive Director of the Deep Ellum Foundation. “It’s our music venues, but also our retailers, our service providers…all invested in a community like ours.”
According to information provided by the foundation, the popular arts and entertainment district is a mere half square mile in size — but is a pint-sized economic powerhouse. The district packs in some 400 businesses and pours millions of tax dollars into local and state economies.
It’s a “huge impact when you start to think about places like The Art Co, and Bomb Factor and Trees and Dada and all these places, just in Deep Ellum that aren’t bringing people down here,” said LaRue, “and then you multiply that by other venues across our city, our state and country… you’re talking 2700 plus independent venues that are mom and pop run.”
The Deep Ellum Foundation has collected dozens of signatures from stakeholders and supporters to help push lawmakers to take action on three specific measures: The Save Our Stages Act, The Restaurants Act, and Refund6point7 — a homegrown campaign to provide relief to bars by refunding the state’s 6.7% mixed beverage tax for one year.
“Now is the time that many have told us the next 3, 6, 12 months–is when they are going to run out of steam,” said Hudiburg, “and they are going to need legislative relief in order to survive.”
According to a recent foundation survey, Hudiburg says roughly 55% of those that responded are in danger of closing.
“Being behind hundreds of thousand of dollars now this year,” said LaRue,”there’s a lot of us that are not going to make it, without help.”