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Shuttered venues have new grant opportunity to keep their stage lights on

The SBA is opening the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Thursday for eligible businesses
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Posted at 10:55 PM, Apr 07, 2021

FRANKLIN — Indiana is highlighting the support and resources available to businesses that are struggling to keep going more than a year into the pandemic.

Many venues and theaters across the country are still closed. But as of Thursday April 8, those businesses will be able to apply for much-needed grants from a $16-billion fund. Getting this relief could be what keeps beloved local venues alive.

“When you are an indoor facility like this, we are the first facility of the type to shut down,” Rob Shilts, Executive Director of The Historic Artcraft Theatre, explained. “We were the first to close and the last to re-open.”

The Historic Artcraft Theatre in Franklin is a cherished venue for many Hoosiers. Shilts has been doing what he can to generate some income for his staff, including drive-thru popcorn sales and small private movie showings. But, that still has not been enough. Shilts says their revenue was down 75% from the year prior to the pandemic.

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“It is tough to furlough your staff, to lay off your staff, to cut you know wages back,” Shilts said. “And everybody, believe me everybody in all of our 7-8 employees, took cuts. And still worked twice as many hours with less pay to keep this going.”

Funds from the Paycheck Protection Program helped keep employees on staff but the new Shuttered Venue Operators Grant offers more help to keep venues like The Historic Artcraft Theatre open until they can welcome full crowds again.

“Payroll and wages is critical,” Shilts said. “But then you have a venue that is used to bringing in performances and all of these kinds of things and you don’t have any, you have nobody in those seats.”

The Small Business Administration’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant will provide venues with grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue, up to $10-million.

“I imagine for most venues that is going to be the most significant grant they will have ever received, not just during the pandemic, probably ever,” Joe Hamgeri, CFO of HiFi and MOKB in Downtown Indianapolis, said.

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Hamgeri is also a founder of the Indiana Independent Venue Alliance, a statewide organization created during the pandemic to provide resources and information to Indiana venues. Hamgeri said many of the IIVA members experienced losses of 70% to 90% in 2020.

“We are not going to survive, we are not going to survive without that help,” Hamgeri said. “I think for a lot of venues it will mean that they can stay in business and they will be able to stick around.”

The SVOG funds can be used for things like payroll, rent and mortgage, utility bills, some forms of debt, taxes, admin costs, insurance and advertising, among other uses.

The financial assistance could be what it takes to make sure some of our favorite stages make it to the other side of the pandemic.

“We are not only going to come out of this but we are going to come out of it stronger, we are going to be more resilient, we are going to build ourselves to be bulletproof so if this should occur again, we are going to have more ways to combat it,” Shilts added.

Both Shilts and Hamgeri are prepared to apply for the SVOG funding.

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The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant is open to applicants Thursday, April 8, through the SBA.

The Historic Artcraft Theatre plans to re-open in late April. For more information about the theatre: https://www.historicartcrafttheatre.org/

All Indiana venues experiencing challenges due to the pandemic are invited to join the Indiana Independent Venue Alliance. For more information on how to work with them: https://www.indianavenuealliance.org/

For more information on the SVOG eligibility and how to apply: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/covid-19-relief-options/shuttered-venue-operators-grant#section-header-5.