The Machine Shop still needs community support to keep on rockin'

FLINT, Michigan — In some ways, the coverage we provided in October 2020 still seems eerily accurate and familiar for local music venue owners. The impact of COVID-19 is still affecting the live entertainment business on a daily basis, even now, in October 2021. 

One of Flint’s most iconic rock venues, The Machine Shop, has brought nationally-touring acts in rock, and country music like Shinedown, Pop Evil, Anthrax, and Eric Church since opening in 2002. After being closed from March 7, 2020, to August 27, 2021, the venue was unable to produce income, since, without warning, they weren’t allowed to host any concerts. 

After joining the National Independent Venue Assocation (NIVA) to request a relief fund from the State of Michigan, the #SaveMIStages movement began. The goal is to get funding for independent music venues and promoters, after a 90% revenue loss.

On a statewide level, 80+ venues and promoters also rallied together to form Michigan Independent Venue & Promoter Association (MIVPA) to advocate for the future of these independent venues, impact change, and use their voices to garner support for local stages. 

Machine Shop owner Kevin Zink has been involved with the local venue since day one and is quick to handle many tasks of the business, including operations, general management, repairs, and more. The last year-and-a-half has been like nothing Zink has seen or experienced before within the music industry. 
The Machine Shop opened in March 2002 and has since become a main staple in Flint's rock music culture. After reopening in August, The Machine Shop and many more independent music venues are far from ‘back to normal.’ With varying capacity restrictions and COVID-19 vaccination requirements from touring acts, there is much uncertainty with hosting live music that didn’t use to be there.

Zink said his business hasn’t really received assistance to remain afloat. “We did not get really any help from outside the organization,” he said. “Fortunately, friends of The Machine Shop went online and purchased merchandise from our Machine Shop Gear Company. That is really the only way we got through this.”

The venue did apply for the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant (SVOG) through the U.S. Small Business Association but was denied. “We were declined grant money, we were not even told why,” Zink said. “This means we barely were able to reopen and are starting over financially. We were one of the venues the grant was written for and were very involved in the process, but were declined — very odd to say the least.”

After the denial, the venue appealed the process several months ago, but their status still remains ‘under review.’ Zink said, “the sense of urgency does not seem to be there.” The situation grows frustrating and disappointing considering music venues were the first to close during the pandemic, and many will be the last to reopen, if at all. 
Kevin Zink, owner of The Machine Shop.
Since returning to hosting shows, the live music industry has many behind-the-scenes things that look very different these days, compared to the pre-COVID era. “We are finally back to doing shows, but are extremely cautious,” Zink said. “It has made it so we can’t make a single mistake right now. We do some shows knowing it may cost us, but we do it for the local music community. Those shows are on hold for a bit, unfortunately.”

Despite the confusion surrounding the grant denial and ‘under review’ status, Zink and staff are grateful to return to the energy of live shows. “All of us at The Machine Shop are so happy to be back at what we love again and hope to see more people out enjoying live music soon. We appreciate everyone’s support through all of this mess, and always.”

To show support for fellow local music venues and small businesses, Zink recommends coming to a show. Even if it’s not a high-profile act, get out and support an artist you’ve never seen or heard of before. “I have found some of my favorite bands by just being at a show and never having heard of them before,” he said. “Worst case scenario, you are out living life and supporting dreams but I bet you will have a good time, too.”

For more information about The Machine Shop, visit their website and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.