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SBA grant offers entertainment venues a lifeline

The Reilly Arts Center in Ocala. Photo: Joe Byrnes
The Reilly Arts Center in Ocala. Photo: Joe Byrnes

Live entertainment venues, theaters and museums have a financial lifeline with the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, a program through the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

WMFE’s Joe Byrnes joins Intersection to discuss how the program will be able to help keep venues afloat locally. 

Byrnes says applications for the program open April 8. Live venue operators or promoters, theatrical producers, live performing arts organization operators, museum operators, motion picture theater operators and talent representatives are all eligible to apply. 

Byrnes spoke with Orange County Arts Director of Arts and Cultural Affairs Terry Olson, who said the pandemic has been tough for arts venues.

“The pandemic has hit our cultural venues probably as hard as anything in any of the economy because the theaters were the first to shut down and are some of the last to reopen,” Olson said. “So it's been a tough time.”

Byrnes says the grant funding can be used for payroll, rent, utilities, mortgage payments, insurance taxes and other business expenses.

He spoke with Matt Wardell, the CEO of the Reilly Arts Center in Ocala and conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, who said the fact they wouldn’t have to pay back the money means the grant won’t impact future operations.

“It's an incredible opportunity for us to basically continue to move forward kind of at full speed ahead,” Wardell said. “Even though we may not be able to be 100% right now, it allows us to staff up now and continue to plan now at that 100% level so that we are ready in the fall and in the winter when we hope to be at 100%.”

Byrnes says the idea is to keep arts organizations from going under.

“That's what they're striving for,” he says. “I know for some, it's coming kind of late--they've already been through just terrible difficulties--but this should give them the fuel that they need to get back up on their feet.” 

Information regarding the grant can be found at sba.gov/svogrant