Since March 2020, COVID-19 has ravaged Colorado's music and live-entertainment industry. The state has shuttered venues off and on since the pandemic came to Colorado, workers have been laid off, and even when venues were allowed to open, they were forced to operate at drastically reduced capacities.
But some good news is on the way.
Starting Thursday, April 8, live venue operators and promoters, theatrical promoters, live performing arts organization operators, motion picture theater operators and more can apply for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, which was established by the Small Business Administration and signed into law last December. The program includes $16 billion in grants to boarded-up venues, which must have been in operation since February 29, 2020. The grants will be administered by SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance.
Chris Zacher, executive director of Levitt Pavilion, board chair of the Colorado Independent Venue Association and Colorado chair of the National Independent Venue Association, recommends that promoters take a few steps before applying for SVOG, including getting a Data Universal Number System, registering for the System for Award Management, and setting up a grants.gov account.
“There are also three priority periods that are based on the total revenue loss from 2019 to 2020,” Zacher says. “Venues need to make sure that they understand which priority period they are in. This is not a first-come, first served process. The application will be open to all on the same day, and the grants will be awarded based on your priority period. Venues also will need to prepare a plan on how they are going to use the money that is awarded. That plan will need to follow the allowable expenses that the SBA has indicated the funds can be spent on, and it must be submitted with your application.”
According to the SBA website, “Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45 percent of their gross earned revenue, with the maximum amount available for a single grant award of $10 million. $2 billion is reserved for eligible applications with up to fifty full-time employees.”
For most venues, says Zacher, a 45 percent grant of their gross earned revenue will help them reopen.
“However, if we have a setback increasing the number of cases of COVID-19 or if we have vaccine distribution slowdowns that extend closures through the end of 2021, then another relief package would be needed to save the industry,” he adds.
SBA's website also states, “Those who have suffered the greatest economic loss will be the first applications processed,” starting with entities that suffered a 90 percent or greater revenue loss between April 2020 through December 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, while second and third priorities are entities that suffered 70 percent or greater revenue loss and 25 percent or greater revenue loss, respectively.
Funds can be used for specific expenses, including payroll costs; rent, utility payments and scheduled mortgage payments (not including pre-payment of principal); worker-protection expenditures and more.
Zacher says in most cases, the grants should provide a venue with a larger amount of emergency aid than the Paycheck Protection Plan Round 2 program.
“The American Rescue Plan Act, passed and signed into law in March, changed an earlier rule that prohibited venues from applying for PPP2 if they were planning on applying for SVOG and vice versa,” Zacher says.
Congress recently extended the PPP2 programs' sunset date from March 31 to May 31.
“This is a big move which offers protection for those who are unsure if they receive SVOG funding,” Zacher says. “A venue can now apply for PPP2 before they apply for SVOG, but not after, unless they are turned down for SVOG. However, any funds received from PPP2 or from the CARES Act will be deducted from a venue's SVOG award. The SVOG pathway does not open until April 8. So I tell venues to go ahead and apply for PPP2 today; it won’t hurt you.”
There's no limit on how many venues can receive SVOG funding in any given state from the $16 billion relief package.
“We've done a lot of work analyzing the monetary needs of the industry," Zacher concludes. "We’re still not certain if that will cover every venue in every priority period, but we believe it will. Time will tell.”
SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance will offer a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant information webinar at 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 30. Register here.