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$ 1 million grant saves legendary New Haven nightclub Toad’s Place from ‘utter devastation’

NEW HAVEN – For the first time since March 2020, live music came to the Toad’s Place stage on Friday.

The famous music club, with help from the federal government, is preparing to reopen after more than a year of pandemic shutdown.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro came to Toad’s Place on Friday to celebrate the nearly $ 1 million the club received as part of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, helping it recover from the pandemic loss.

“This place is iconic. He’s a legend, and he’s a source of joy and entertainment for so many people over 45, ”said Blumenthal. “He’s been here to provide entertainment and culture, to bring people together, and that’s why I felt so passionately that we had to help our stages, our cinemas, our museums. They bring people together and provide cultural richness and community in Connecticut. “

Blumenthal said the $ 16 billion set aside in the subsidy program was badly needed because sites need to plan and prepare before reopening. He said he wrote to the Small Business Administration, which administers the grants, urging that the funds be disbursed quickly.

Venues such as Toad’s, the Warner Theater in Torrington and the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, he said, are having a lasting impact on people’s lives.


“This program is moving. This will provide a vital lifeline for icons of our state, like Toad’s, which will offer so much joy and wonderful magic to people of all ages, but especially the young people who come here, and will take away unforgettable memories, ”, Blumenthal said. “You literally create these memories and make dreams come true for the fans as well as the great sources of art and music that will do their magic here.”

DeLauro said the federal government has received about 13,000 requests for assistance from closed entertainment venues, movie theaters, entertainment companies and cinemas, among others.

Those who lost at least 90% of their income during the pandemic are eligible for support, she said.

Right now, it looks like there is enough money set aside to support them all, she said. She urged other eligible sites to apply.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created the biggest public health and economic crisis in a generation,” DeLauro said. “We need to do more to boost the morale of site owners) – show them there is a way out. … I am so proud that we in Washington, at the federal level, can make a difference by helping you to continue to be the icon that you have been in New Haven, and our regional community, that you have been for all these years. “

SBA Connecticut District Manager Catherine Marx described the March 2020 fight, noting that Toad’s had delayed performances on several occasions before ultimately deciding to shut down.

The grants had been given in priority to the hardest hit sites, she said, including Toad’s. So far, 10 Connecticut sites have received funding, she said.

“We missed our performing arts. We failed to come out, ”Marx said. “And it’s just wonderful to be on this legendary stage once again to congratulate Toad’s and thank everyone involved for the money allocation and the hard work throughout the program.”

Owner Brian Phelps has said the first concerts at Toad’s after the reopening will likely take place in late August.

He expressed gratitude to Blumenthal, DeLauro and other national leaders, saying the institution was facing “utter devastation” without their help.

“Due to the contagiousness of the COVID virus, (we) were the first to close and the last to open,” said Phelps. “We are extremely grateful for their help. “

After remarks made on occasion, guitarist Rohn Lawrence and pianist Jay Rowe began to play jazz. People were smiling and stamping their feet.

At the end of each song, applause, once again, filled Toad’s Place.

Toad’s was founded in 1975 by Mike Spoerndle, who initially envisioned a French and Italian restaurant, according to earlier reports. Phelps said the restaurant is not working and Spoerndle has started bringing in bluegrass and blues bands.

Over the years, in addition to local numbers, big names have also graced the small stage: the Rolling Stones came in for a surprise performance in 1989; Bob Dylan performed for four hours in 1990. The stage was visited by a series of luminaries, including Bruce Springsteen, U2, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Cardi B, the Wu-Tang Clan and Kendrick Lamar.

Phelps became manager in 1976 under Spoerndle, then took over the place in 1995.

Photos of New Haven’s rock and roll history, which highlights Toad’s Place, can be found here.

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Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement