The front entrance of Port City Music Hall, earlier this summer. Credit: Port City Music Hall

The state’s music clubs are on red alert.

They want you to know that economically, the coronavirus is killing them, so on Tuesday night, they will bathe their businesses in a basic sign of emergency ― red light, according to WeMakeEvents North America, a coalition of music industry venues and professionals who want the federal government to help relieve the economic damage they have suffered due to the pandemic. The marquee of Merrill Auditorium at Portland’s City Hall will be among the places painted in red light.

Economic hardship from the pandemic isn’t unique. But while most sectors of the economy have at least partly reopened, music venues remain closed, given the statewide ban on gatherings of more than 50 people and no COVID-19 vaccine available.

The #WeMakeEvents coalition seeks to pressure Congress to pass the Restart Act, which would aid the music industry, among others. It comes after the closure of a huge player in Portland’s entertainment industry, Port City Music Hall, shut down last month.

The organization hopes for a total of 1,500 buildings to be lit in red in over 50 cities nationwide on Tuesday, said Doug Born, business agent of IATSE Local 114, Maine’s stagehand union, which is volunteering to help set up the red lights.

“Due to public health concerns, large scale live events will not return until sometime next year at the earliest, making the Restart Act an essential piece of legislation,” Born said in a statement.

“Our entire industry is predicated on the idea of a thousand people or more being comfortable rubbing shoulders in order to enjoy a performance. Until that can happen again, we are out of work and we love what we do.”

Some aid has gone to the industry. Eight Maine arts organizations received $50,000 coronavirus aid grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, among them the Penobscot Theatre Company, Portland Stage, the L.A. Public Theatre and the Portland Symphony Orchestra. The Maine Arts Commission also received $426,800 from the federal CARES Act to distribute to arts organizations.

But it is not enough, said Gregg Carville, a Portland-based lighting designer and former technical director at Merrill.

“I know the people who keep this venue open. From the box office to the front of house staff, concessions to cleaning, stagehands and designers, equipment vendors and venue management, performers and management, bus and truck drivers, catering and security,” Carville said. “No one makes a show alone and we are all hurting.”

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