Local Concert Promoters and Venues Await Federal Assistance

Posted on: July 7th, 2021 at 5:07 am by

Strange Majik at Marshall Stack on June 19, Photo: Everynight Charley

What follows is a dispatch from the downtown music scene with Everynight Charley Crespo, prolific Editor of The Manhattan Beat. Here is the latest entry.

Shortly after the pandemic closures began in March 2020, the National Independent Venue Operators Association (NIVA) formed and lobbied the federal government with the Save Our Stages Act to prevent the live entertainment industry from collapsing. This effort evolved into the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant (SVOG), and was ratified by congress in December 2020, even as the weight of nine months of financial debt squeezed venue operators. The $16 billion fund was created to help sustain the industry until in-person entertainment could resume. Operators and promoters of music clubs, theaters, and other venues would be able to access grants of as much as $10 million based on their gross revenue from 2019.

Six months later, the funds only now are starting to trickle to the venue operators and promoters. The Small Business Administration’s Office of Disaster Assistance, which administers the grants, issued the following data on June 28. A copy of the report can be viewed on the SBA website.

The SBA received 14,638 applications for aid requesting $11.6 billion. The agency has resolved determinations on 52-percent of the applications. Of these, 2,390 grants were awarded, amounting to $1.5 billion, of which $720 million has been disbursed. So far, 227 applications were denied. In round numbers, about 12,000 venue operators and event promoters are still holding on, as bills continue mounting.

Tennessee Senator Bill Hagerty, who has been an advocate for the cause, stated on June 23 that the Small Business Administration plans to process most of the aid applications from its Shutter Venue Operators Grant program by early July.

“I was encouraged to hear during a constructive discussion today with Administrator [Isabel] Guzman that SVOG has her full attention, the team implementing the program has been revamped, the agency will work with applicants that simply had technical mistakes, and that SBA will aim to process most applications by early July,” Hagerty reported in a news release.

The plan for the disbursement of awards has been three-tiered, each with a distinct 14-day period. Priority One applicants, who lost 90 percent or more of their revenue from April to December of 2020, will receive funds of up to $10 million in the first 14 days of disbursement. Priority Two applicants, who lost 70-percent or more of their revenue in the same time period, will receive funds over the next 14 days. Priority Three applicants, who lost 25-percent or more of their revenue in 2020, which will receive funds in the 14 days after the second round of funding closes. The amount of funding for the second and third tiers would be based on what remains after the SBA awards grants to the first priority group. Conceivably, the funds may exhaust before getting to the third stage of applicants.

Venue operators and concert promoters in the New York City area would not speak on-record regarding their applications. Several simply said that the money was needed to pay outstanding payroll, rent and utilities. Some pointed to the irony that this aid was designed to help them during the lengthy closure but instead is being issued after the venues sustained the pandemic and are reopening. The venue operators referred to their financial instability as justification for the increased ticket prices and, in some cases, the requirement on customers to purchase an entire table of seats rather than single tickets.

Meanwhile, social media channels of the National Independent Venue Operators (NIVA) and also the New York Independent Venue Operators (NYIVA) seem to confirm that the situation remains much the same. Most venue operators’ applications for long-promised federal aid remain “pending.”

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