Chicago’s Independent Music Venue Employees Launch “By Staff, For Staff” Grant Initiative

CIVL SAVE Emergency Relief Fund is open to all Chicago live performance venue employees, artists experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 shutdown

Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL), advocates for Chicago’s independently owned and operated concert venues and their staff, is pleased to announce the opening of the first round of CIVL SAVE (Staff, Artists, VEnues) Emergency Relief Fund grant applications. The CIVL SAVE Emergency Relief Fund, powered by the Giving Back Fund, is accepting applications from all Chicago music venue employees who are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 shutdown of all live music and performance venues through Sunday, March 21 at 8pm at The initial round of grants will benefit staff with a subsequent round for local artists to follow.

“We felt a responsibility to help our fellow industry colleagues survive this incredibly difficult time, so we convened and began talking about how we could best represent their collective needs,” says Alice Blander, director of operations at The Hideout.

The staff-driven initiative is the result of a months-long effort by a dedicated team of unemployed venue workers, who have worked diligently to gather the input of their peers on how to best serve them during the prolonged moratorium on live events.

Over the course of six months, the CIVL SAVE Emergency Relief Fund committee collected information regarding grant program preferences from its intended recipients utilizing a series of staff-administered surveys and both internal and public forums. Factors such as grant amount, distribution method, and application juror qualifications were determined by a majority of responses from a cross-section of Chicago venue staff who will benefit from the fund.

Throughout the process of designing the fund, CIVL’s board members and 501(c)(3) fiscal agent Giving Back Fund have acted as supervisors, allowing for the project to be assessed and organized primarily by the committee––a true “by staff, for staff” effort.

“Watching this team step up and figure out how to fairly and quickly distribute the funds raised by CIVL has been an inspiring reminder of how capable and hardworking people in this industry continue to be, even after being away from their normal jobs for a full year,” noted Billy Helmkamp, co-owner of The Whistler and Sleeping Village, board member Chicago Independent Venue League.

CIVL SAVE Emergency Relief Fund grants will be distributed to eligible applicants based on need, and donations are still being accepted. The CIVL SAVE Emergency Relief Fund committee is currently seeking jurors from adjacent industries to review anonymized applications once applications close. Those interested in serving as jurors may sign up here by Friday, March 19 for more information:

Information on applying and donating to the CIVL SAVE Emergency Relief Fund can be found at

Annah Garrett

Metro / smartbar / GMan Tavern • Chicago Independent Venue League

About CIVL | Chicago Independent Venue League

Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL) advocates on behalf of Chicago’s independently owned and operated concert venues and music halls. Founded in 2018, CIVL works to ensure the long-term viability of its member venues so they may continue to provide event-goers with enjoyable live music experiences.

Chicago’s reputation as a world renowned live music hub is largely due to independently owned and operated music venues’ legacies of nurturing homegrown talent. Performers from every genre are afforded opportunities to earn national recognition. More than 50 CIVL member venues proudly represent Chicago’s culture and musical style.

CIVL is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit organization. Visit for more information or to contribute.


1644 N Honore St - Suite 100 Chicago, IL 60622