A band performs at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. Courtesy photo

Few people know Belly Up better than Chris Goldsmith.

Goldsmith, who joined the company in 1988 after graduating from college, worked his way up in the music industry before being tapped to lead the popular venue 15 years ago. Therefore, it made sense that he was present during the venue’s last, live concert earlier this year.

“Our last show was March 12 with the Hot Snakes,” Goldsmith said. “It was a great show and I’m so glad I went. It was very surreal though because we all were pretty sure that it was going to be the last show for awhile. Everything else was so uncertain.”

That uncertainty hasn’t left Goldsmith as he leads Belly Up through a pandemic that has shut down the company’s main source of revenue.

Goldsmith said the Monday after the Hot Snakes’ concert, he and his employees scrambled to reschedule shows and develop new ways to generate income.

“The good news was that we’d been unknowingly laying the seeds for future businesses for a while,” Goldsmith said. “First, by starting a small record label based on live recordings of our concerts, and then by producing a ‘Live at the Belly Up’ TV show for KPBS for the past several seasons. The TV show and the record label gave us toeholds on what otherwise was a sheer cliff.”

In the past few months since the stay-at-home order was announced in March, Belly Up has also produced a digital music festival, released new recordings from the “vault of the club” and developed a livestream broadcast of concerts.

“It’s not easy trying to start a new business from a cold start, but our venue is blessed with a huge base of support from the live music community — artists, managers, and fans — and we’ve been able to make some pretty good inroads in a short amount of time,” Goldsmith said. “It isn’t yet paying the bills, but it’s generating precious revenue, and also hopefully creating new sources of live music content that will continue to bear fruit, artistically and financially, even after we reopen.”

The company was also able to secure a small loan from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, a monumental task all on its own, Goldsmith said.
Looking ahead, Goldsmith said Belly Up is still in need of more financial support to keep the company and its employees afloat.

“What we really need is economic support that understands how dire this situation is for the concert venues in this country,” Goldsmith said. “Five months of covering the bills with only a trickle of income, with several more months on the horizon…. Even when we are able to re-open, it will still take several more months before our calendars are full of bands again.”

For now, the public can support the beloved concert venue by purchasing a t-shirt, live album or a ticket to a livestream event.

“I realize that none of these things replace the incomparable experience of a live show from your favorite artist at your favorite club, but there is a lot of quality entertainment to be found via bellyup.com right now,” Goldsmith said.

For more information about the livestream events or Belly Up, go to bellyup.com.

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