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How music lovers in Maine saved One Longfellow Square

Getting a lifeline from “the greatest audience in the world”

PORTLAND, Maine — Even when the economy was doing nicely, profits were slim for One Longfellow Square, a small venue that’s been part of the heartbeat of Portland’s music scene for years. When it had to close its doors in March, revenues collapsed and in a matter of three months the financial outlook grew dire.

“We had our best ever financial year last year and were well on our way to our best year again this year,” says OLS board member Al Leighton. “And then—bam! All of a sudden, it all came to a halt, a total halt.”

When the pandemic hit, all shows were cancelled. And not just performances—the special events and receptions that provided sorely needed revenue also disappeared. A venue that barely made money in the best of times found itself facing the possibility of never opening again.

On June 15, OLS sent out a heartfelt message. “Come Labor Day we will no longer be able to pay rent,” it said. “To keep the venue alive until we can reopen sometime next year, we need to raise $100,000.”

That’s a lot of money at a time when a lot of people are hurting, but Mainers responded. Little more than a week after shooting off that distress flare, OLS had received donations from more than one thousand members, friends and supporters. The total—and by the time you read this the number will be higher—was just over $92,000.

The money will meet essential expenses, but it doesn’t make all the financial challenges go away so the fundraising will continue. For now, though, the folks at OLS are a little dazed—and enormously grateful. “We asked the greatest audience in the world to support us,” Leighton says. “Everybody has come through. Wow, just tremendous.”

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