Strumm’s and 19 East are two of the most enduring music clubs in Metro Manila, operated by entrepreneurs who love what they do and care for their staff.
They maintain what only a few venues can afford, aside from top hotels: book gigs almost every night, including Sundays at 19 East.
Strumm’s has been operating for 27 years; 19 East, for 16 years.
When the quarantine on Metro Manila and Luzon was imposed on the third week of March, Mari Lagdameo of Strumm’s and Wowie Posadas of 19 East had no choice but to close down their respective clubs.
“We closed Strumm’s March 12, ahead of the order to close all establishments,” Lagdameo told Lifestyle. “We wanted to be preemptive and proactive. We did not want to risk the health of our patrons, our bands and, of course, our staff. That is the Strumm’s family, as we know it. That was what we felt was the responsible thing to do.”
Posadas closed down 19 East March 15.
Strumm’s has 40 employees, while 19 East has 30.
The next thing Lagdameo and Posadas did after closing down was facilitate the release of cash that their employees would surely need while quarantined at home.
“On March 17, we released to all 19 East employees their 13th month pay to help them cope with the work suspension,” said Posadas, a lawyer who’s also a musician. Two days later, 19 East management “submitted, on behalf of its employees, all the requirements for the application to avail themselves of the P5,000 benefit per employee under the COVID-19 Adjustment Measure Program (CAMP) of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole).” Assistance
As for the P8,000 subsidy to low-income households, Posadas said: “If applicable, 19 East will also represent its employees in availing themselves of the cash assistance.”
“We have given all employees financial assistance that should tide them over for at least a month,” said Lagdameo.
One good thing the lockdown has done, Lagdameo said, is make them “value the importance of family and bond with our respective family units. Also, the closure of Strumm’s has allowed us, early on, to disinfect and fumigate the premises. We will do it once again before reopening, whenever that date is.”
Posadas said he fully understands the government’s action: “The lockdown was intended to help people avoid catching and spreading COVID-19. Slowing down the spread of the virus will help prevent health services from being overwhelmed and overburdened.”
Asked what he hopes will happen when the lockdown is lifted, Posadas said: “It’s going to be hard to pick up the pieces. The pandemic has hit small businesses, specially bars and restaurants, very hard. Consequently, we call on the government to take action in making sure these businesses can rebuild once this is all over.
“Financial aid packages and tax benefits would be very helpful. Laws and regulations should not be a barrier for businesses to reopen. These businesses need all the help they can get. Just imagine all the employees that have been affected. Also, we are calling on the public to support the restaurants and bars by patronizing them once things get back to normal. In the meantime, we will plan for the road to recovery and focus on all possible ways to resuscitate our business.”
On April 6, President Duterte approved the extension of the Luzon lockdown to April 30.
Lagdameo and Posadas said they are constantly in touch with their respective staff about their needs.