DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) – Aaron Hefel said his bar and live venue, The Lift, has not been the same since the COVID-19 pandemic forced concerts and live performances to cancel.
Instead of hosting artists and musicians, his stage is now filled with chairs and tables.
“We are a bar, it is what we are known for, I think, so without it it is definitely hit hard,” Hefel said.
Hefel said he has been able to stay afloat thanks to financial help from the state of Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council, but just barely.
“When you think about things like liquor license and rent, it is pretty easy to spend a lot of money quickly,” Hefel said. “Especially if you are only doing a percentage of your former business.”
Hefel said he spends around $12,000 a year just on that liquor license.
Casey Olinger, also known as CaseTheJoint, is one of the artists that used to perform at The Lift. He has been performing for 25 years, so he said he has been desperately missing the adrenaline.
“It has definitely taken its toll,” Olinger said. “As far as my passion within hip hop, it is the live show part, like that is my backbone, that is what I get a kick out of, it is what brings a smile to my face is the performance aspect.”
Right now, Olinger is relying solely on his second job, but he is hopeful he will be able to pump a crowd up sometime soon.
“Dubuque is unique because you can get away with every genre here and we have more venues that welcome it all than just about any place within an earshot,” Olinger said. “Now with COVID, it has been minimalized to just what I would call background music.”
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