The legendary Birdland Jazz Club on West 44th Street has been a fixture in the community since it was founded in 1949.
The club has hosted memorable performances by the likes of Duke Ellington and Tito Puente, but the small business is experiencing severe economic hardships caused by the shutdown.
Owner Gianni Valentini estimates his pride and joy has at most six months to play on.
He can’t pay the rent because he can’t do any business. The club has been closed since March when the ban on live performances took effect.
After months of silence, he decided to pivot and take advantage of the then-legal indoor dining. In early December, Birdland spent $18,000 it didn’t have on partitions and high-tech air filters. And a week later, the governor shut them down again.
A GoFundMe has been launched to raise money and save the establishment, and in just three days, more than $100,000 has already been donated.
Valenti said he plans to use the GoFundMe to support the 60 employees he had to lay off.
“To keep my team together, to keep our resident artists at least enough money to keep them going and to help other artists,” Valenti said. “I’m so grateful and it’s such a pleasure to see the number of people that have responded. It’s beautiful.”
Organizer Tom D’Angora says the fundraising goal of $250,000 will not only get Birdland out if its pandemic-induced debt, but it will allow the venue to weather the rest of the storm and remain “The Jazz Corner of the World.”
“Like so many venues, Birdland is at the end of their rope and in danger of closing if big money isn’t raised,” he said. “If we hit our goal, Birdland will make it through the pandemic. That’s what’s important to know. If the goal is hit, Birdland is going nowhere. And let’s hope they’re here for another 71 years.”
Valenti also commented on the GoFundMe page, thanking supporters.
“My sincere thanks to everyone who has donated, liked, or shared our campaign so far,” he wrote. “We are well on our way to our goal! Together we are working to ensure that live music returns to Birdland. Thank you!”
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