The boarded up windows and For Rent signs are all over the place in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, where restaurants are closed and businesses shuttered. Nearby, the Broadway theaters are all dark.
But the economic darkness brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has had a few bright spots: A couple of well-loved venues have received financial boosts to help them make it through, thanks to online fundraising campaigns and even a telethon.
Married couple Tom and Michael D’Angora, who live in Hell’s Kitchen, first started a GoFundMe campaign on behalf of the West Bank Cafe/Laurie Beechman Theater.
It raised more than $340,000 after a streaming telethon that included performances by many of the Broadway actors and singers who frequent the West Bank Cafe.
“I’ve spent some of my most delicious, my most insouciant, my most important times right here," celebrated veteran actor Andre De Shields, who was performing in “Hadestown" before the virus hit, said during the telethon, before handing venue owner Steve Olsen a check. “We don’t want this lovely piece of heaven on earth to ever go away."
“We were a couple of weeks from really running out of money, and going out of business," Olsen said prior to the campaign.
But now, he’s optimistic the venue he opened in 1978 can stay open until indoor dining and live performances return to the city.
Since then, the D’Angoras have started another campaign for jazz club Birdland, raising over $180,000. Owner Gianni Valenti predicted he would be able to stay open until the pandemic is over.
It’s “very heartwarming to see the response we’ve had," Valenti said.
“I read through the list of people and I just love the fact that they care about Birdland, about the music and about what it means to New York that we all keep it going and hopefully down the road we’re back to normal,” he said.