Almost a year into the pandemic, 10 Mile Music Hall is still looking for relief
For any young business, encountering difficulties in the first few years isn’t unexpected, but the owners of 10 Mile Music Hall feel their situation is unprecedented.
“Soon, we will have been shut down longer than we’ve been open as a business,” co-owner Todd Altschuler said. “We’re not owned by a conglomerate. We’re in a super high-rent area. It’s a tough situation to be in, even among the other shuttered venues.”
The concert venue, which opened in late 2018, was forced to close its doors along with most of the community in March 2020 as the novel coronavirus swept across the world and local health departments worked to stymie the spread. Since then, the venue has continued to be on the hook for fixed costs and unable to refund tickets for most of its canceled shows.
“When COVID restrictions went into place at the peak of our high season, our incoming cash flow stream stopped and outgoing did not,” said Chris Thompson, 10 Mile’s chief financial officer. “The expenses continued while cash flow stopped.”
Those expenses — which include rent, insurance and other fixed costs — have required 10 Mile’s owners to put up “tens of thousands of dollars per month,” Thompson said.
“That’s not coming out of the business; it’s coming out of personal savings,” he added.
Recently the venue’s landlord worked with the organization to adjust their lease, which Altschuler said should allow them to make it until they get funds from the recently funded federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant.
“We really need the shuttered venues grant,” Altschuler said. “A couple of ski bums put their entire lives into something for the community, and a lot of locals understand that, but national booking agencies don’t understand that.”
The venue recently came under fire after the jam band Moe canceled its Snoe.down concert at the hall, which originally was set to take place in March 2020 and was rescheduled for March 2021 before being canceled outright.
In an email sent to fans, the band announced the cancellation and offered a 35% ticket refund to fans, while stating that 10 Mile had “not offered to fund the refunds for tickets.”
Nebraska resident Tim Westerberg had purchased tickets for Snoe.down, saying Moe is “one of the more favorite bands that I go to see.” He ultimately took the refund via check but doesn’t expect to cash it.
He is disappointed to miss out on the show but also feels that the band, and many fellow fans, might not fully understand the situation 10 Mile is in.
Westerberg lived in Silverthorne in the early 1990s and currently works as a stagehand for a company that manages shows across the Midwest. He was happy to see a venue like 10 Mile arrive in Summit County but also knows that running such a venue in a resort community isn’t easy, even under ideal circumstances.
Ultimately, he feels that 10 Mile should have been more proactive in communicating their situation to patrons.
“Their silence online kind of really made them a perfect victim,” Westerberg said. “… If they came out and said something, if they put out an explanation, I don’t know if Moe would’ve thrown them under the bus.”
Thompson also admits that the venue has not done as well as it could have to provide updates, including early on in the pandemic, when it announced refunds would be processed starting April 6.
“Frankly, I don’t think we managed those communications well, but the important thing (is) it has been, and still is, our intention to refund tickets for every canceled show,” he said.
Thompson said 10 Mile intends to refund all canceled tickets in full, including those for Snoe.down, which accounts for the bulk of the venue’s unrefunded tickets. The partial refund being given out by Moe is coming from a $30,000 deposit the venue gave to the band when it was booked, he said.
He added that the venue’s operators hope they will be able to make things right for all parties involved.
Altschuler said making things right, not just with Moe but with other booking agencies, rides on receiving financial assistance.
“Getting them back on our side is going to take money,” he said. “Money fixes everything. As long as we fix it, then hopefully everything will fall into place.”
The venue has applied for assistance other than the shuttered venues grant but has found little success. Its application for a Colorado Arts Relief Fund was recently rejected, and the owners are appealing the U.S. Small Business Administration’s rejection of their economic income disaster loan application.
Altschuler said the reasons for the rejections are not wholly clear, but some of it could be because of their status as a new business. Since 2019 was the venue’s first full year in business, 10 Mile reported a net loss in revenue after factoring in startup costs.
“They look at our first year of business, and it looks like a failing business,” Altschuler said. “A big thing is that we weren’t established enough.”
Amid all the disappointment, he said one bright spot that has come through is the support of the community, including the town of Frisco.
“It’s been amazing. It’s a testament to our local community,” he said, while acknowledging that their need is ultimately more than what locals and the town can provide.
Helping small, local businesses survive the pandemic has been a major focus of town officials, said Vanessa Agee, Frisco’s communications director, who also acknowledged that the town isn’t in a position to support every businesses.
“Grants aren’t always going to get it all done. They can’t,” Agee said. “How can a town with only a $13 million budget support an over $250 million economy?”
She said the Frisco Town Council recognizes the importance of the venue and tried to support the hall in other ways, including paying them to host the virtual Concerts Not in the Park series in the summer.
“Having a live music venue in Frisco is an incredible part of the town’s vitality and culture and character,” Agee said.
Thompson said he’s still optimistic the venue will be able to weather the last of the pandemic and is confident the business will qualify for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, which was intended for businesses like 10 Mile.
“We have a new lease, we’re going to have (Shuttered Venue Operators Grant) funds … and music on the patio will be happening all this summer,” he said. “We’re open for weddings and other private events during the summer, and were hoping by fall we’ll be able to have live entertainment at whatever capacity we are able to.”
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