Guest Post By City Winery CEO Michael Dorf: Why We Participated In Blackout Tuesday

City Winery
– City Winery

I feel an obligation to respond to some of the negative feedback we have received for our participating in Blackout Tuesday, which was a music industry initiative intended to honor and mourn the murder of George Floyd and help bring about policy change. While a strong majority of the feedback we received was positive, as a person and a company which works hard to serve as many people to indulge themselves in our music, wine, and food, it is hard to even have one customer disappointed in our efforts.  

Like everyone, we have been suffering for months from the COVID pandemic and had just started planning our slow reopening when George Floyd’s murder set off this series of events which has shaken the core of our country. Our Philadelphia location was looted with our front doors and glass broken, some bottles stolen and the images that now dominate the media became part of our reality. Our team in Chicago is confronting the gun violence throughout the city and didn’t feel safe trying to come to work. While we were providing meals over the last few months for first responders in our various cities, the civil unrest today is worse than the anxiety over COVID.  
Our taking a stand with Black Lives Matter is important to show our solidarity with black Americans at this particular time, given the history of anti-black racism in this country. As the white owner of a music venue and a member of a community that has particularly benefited from the extraordinary talents of countless African-American musicians and artists, it is my particular duty and honor to join in solidarity at this time. Of course, we do not condone looting or violence, but the demonstrations are mostly peaceful and righteous and have never been more critical. The heightened activism of young people of every race coming together has been inspiring. As a Jew, I wish more people had taken to the streets in 1939 when my people were being murdered. We needed people to stand up then, and we need people to stand up now for the injustice in our world. All of us in America clearly have both conscious and unconscious racism. We all need to take part in whatever ways we can to reform our police departments and the criminal justice system. City Winery’s participation in Blackout Tuesday was one small way of doing so. 
We, as a company, and myself, as an individual, want nothing more than to return to putting on shows, great nights of music filled with wine, food and joy. We love having a room filled with people of all races and political beliefs – coming together around music. But this will not happen in a vacuum. Our society needs to learn from this historic moment. We need calming intelligent leadership, and we need to work toward true equality between all people. We all need to commit ourselves to meaningful change, inside and out. As businesses, we need to ask ourselves what more can we do – not just the composition of our teams, but the DNA of cultures. When we get back on that track, the shows will go on. 
Michael Dorf is the founder and CEO of City Winery. He formerly ran The Knitting Factory. Pollstar welcomes a diversity of opinions from across the live business which solely represent the views of the writer and not necessarily the publication. Please send all submissions and comments to the editor at [email protected]