After months of struggling to make ends meet, the owner of the Blue Jay Listening Room in Jacksonville Beach is starting to feel hopeful as a GoFundMe page launched to keep the business alive nears its $30,000 goal and Congress agrees on a stimulus package that includes $15 billion to support independent music venues like hers.
Owner Cara Murphy said business was booming at her intimate live music venue until the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“We were doing at least a sell out a week, and just overall doing really well,” she said.
The last show at Blue Jay Listening Room before restrictions designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus were implemented was on March 14. The venue reopened on Oct. 1 at 50% capacity.
“This past weekend we had our first two sell outs since we reopened, so that's really exciting,” Murphy said. “But a sell out isn't really a sell out when you're operating at 50% capacity.”
In an attempt to make up for some of the lost revenue, Murphy launched a songwriter showcase called “Songs From Another Room” in April, where musicians from around the country live streamed directly from Blue Jay’s Facebook page. The shows were free, but viewers were encouraged to contribute what they could via Venmo, Cash app or Paypal, with half of all donations going to the artist and the other half going to Blue Jay.
While fans were generous, Murphy said it wasn’t enough to keep the business running.
“It was really good for me mentally, personally, and I think it was good for everyone involved,” she said. “However, it did not take the place of shows monetarily.”
Blue Jay was slowly dying, which left Murphy with one option: Ask for help. She started a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $30,000 to keep the business afloat.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 22, more than $28,000 has been raised.
“I have been so humbled and just completely blown away by the amount of people who are willing to give their hard-earned money to my business,” she said. “Because of our community, we’re able to stay open a little longer.”
She said the money she’s raised “certainly won’t last forever, but I’m going to do absolutely everything in my power to stretch this money until, hopefully, we are able to open back up at full capacity and get going again.”
On top of that, this week Congress approved a more than $900 billion coronavirus relief bill, including the Save Our Stages Act, which provides about $15 billion in relief to businesses like independent music venues.
“Between the GoFundMe and the Save Our Stages Act, I slept soundly last night for the first time in nine months,” Murphy said.
While she finally feels hopeful, Murphy still worries about the future of live music.
“The music industry was the first to close and it will be the last to reopen,” she said.
Blue Jay Listening Room is in the Costa Verde Plaza on South Third Street, upstairs from Casa Maria Authentic Mexican Restaurant.