City Winery owner says coronavirus’ effect on business is “the most painful” he’s experienced as concert promoter

The coronavirus pandemic has been disastrous for a wide variety of businesses, including music venues, which have been forced to close indefinitely for health reasons. Among those hard-hit businesses is City Winery, a popular concert-venue and restaurant chain with franchises in New York and six other major U.S. cities.

City Winery owner Michael Dorf tells ABC Audio that the last several days have been “the most painful I’ve ever experienced in my 35 years of…being a professional promoter.”

He admits, “This is much more difficult than…during 9/11, when I was running [NYC club] the Knitting Factory and we were close to the Trade Towers…All our venues have been through tornadoes and earthquakes and floods…but this takes it to another level.”

Dorf says the closures forced him to “basically suspend pay for…almost 1,500 people around the country.” He adds, “[W]e’ve got enough reserves to allow us to cover health coverage until May, for those who had it. We have a core operating team now of just a minimal group of us managers at a reduced fee.

Michael also notes that the survival of his business likely will depend on how long the venues will have to stay closed.

To help City Winery employees, a relief fund has been launched at GoFundMe.com.

Meanwhile, Dorf points out that the venue closures also are greatly impacting artists, who depend financially on performing live because most make very little off digital music sales and streaming.

Dorf says a potentially hopeful aspect of his business is that City Winery, “as a more intimate concert venue [that showcases] big names and great acts in a smaller…space is probably going to come back before the…giant festivals, where [the spread of the virus is] harder to control.”

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