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Small Business Administration allocates $16B to help reopen independent venues

Posted at 9:37 AM, Mar 26, 2021

Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom is known for its live shows

Since the COVID-19 crisis started, however, the independent live music venue has gone from standing-room-only to operating at 10% capacity with social-distanced shows.

“We are hosting seated shows these days,” said owner Duncan Goodman. “This is not normally what you would see in Cervantes.”

Goodman is looking to reopen at full-capacity after being shut down for more than a year and having to cut most of his staff to survive during the pandemic.

“We deferred everything we could honestly just to get cash flow wise in order to make sure we had money in the bank,” he said.

Goodman is part of the National Independent Venue Association, a group with a mission to secure funding for venues like Cervantes.

“They fought for independent venues until the bill was passed,” Goodman said.

That bill, known as the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, was recently signed into law as part of the second COVID-19 relief bill. It allocates $16 billion in federal emergency relief through the Small Business Administration (SBA) to venues that have been hard hit.

“Those are the industries that we’re here to support," said Barb Carson with the SBA. “They’ve been devastated by revenue loss and that’s exactly what this program hopes to help them restore and open up.”

Carson says venues across the country are eligible for this money, adding though the criteria is complex. But for those that qualify, this program can provide a single independent venue up to $10 million.

“I wish it were easy to join a federal program, but it’s not and it’s for good cause,” she said. “We need to have a program that is fair to ensure that people who are not eligible don’t get the funds, because it’s going to go fast.”

For Goodman, this program is a lifeline.

“This grant is instrumental in helping this industry to survive and saving a lot of these independent venues including Cervantes,” he said.