Some location owners have a federal lifeline. Others are told they are dead.


As emails started arriving late last week, some business owners got the good news they’ve been waiting for: They’ve received a $16 billion federal plan aimed at ravaging music clubs, theaters and other live-event businesses. A piece of the grant fund will be given. from the pandemic.

But other applicants ran into new hurdles – including the discovery that the government thinks they are dead. It was the latest bureaucratic casualty for the Closed Venue Operators Grant Initiative, an aid program created by Congress late last year that has struggled at almost every turn to deliver badly needed relief funds.

Derek Sitter, owner of Volcano Theater Pub, a 250-capacity music and performance venue in Bend, Ore., was watching a British soccer game at home on Saturday when an alert popped up on his phone: “Congratulations,” went the subject line of an email from the Small Business Administration, which manages the grant program.

Mr. Sitter ran outside to tell his wife and daughter the news, tears in his eyes. “My heart rate went up,” he recalled in an interview. “But it was a nice hike.”

About $140,000 was provided to the volcano, Mr. Sitter said, although the funds have yet to arrive. (The size of the grant is estimated at 45 percent of an event’s gross revenue since 2019) It’s unclear how many venues learned that their applications were approved, but members of a network of smaller venues – which are a tightly linked The hive has become during the pandemic – says they have only heard of a few so far. The Small Business Administration has not released details on how many claims it has approved.

Other applicants got serious news. Bob Hanson, Managing Partner Bobby McKay’s, a piano bar near Washington received a cryptic email Tuesday afternoon that began: “Your name appears on the Do Not Pay with Match Source DMF list.”

A few minutes of frantic googling revealed that this was a reference to the government death master file, the record of more than 83 million people whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration.

Mr Hanson immediately called Social Security’s headquarters, which sent him to his local office, which told Mr Hanson that he could not find a record of his name anywhere on the death list. The office agreed to send him a form saying he was alive, but the document could only be sent by mail, he was told – the process he worries would be slow.

“It’s this constant drip-drop of delay,” he said.

Michael Swier, founder of the Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge in New York – and a key person The independent music world also reported early Wednesday that he had been presumed dead, adding that he was beside himself trying to figure out how to fix the error.

“What do I do? What kind of proof do they need?” Mr. Swier said. “Can I say on the phone, ‘It’s me’?”

Representatives for the Small Business Administration did not answer questions about the wrongful death figures.

The latest glitches to spoil the program were, which have caused several delays, including Complete failure of its online system The day he tried to start taking applications. (application system Finally opened at the end of April.)

About 13,000 people applied and demanded a total of $11 billion. The Small Business Administration has yet to release details on how many it has approved.

On Facebook groups and Twitter, frantic business owners are swapping tips and trying to figure out where they can lay their own claim in the application process.

Good news has started coming in some places.

Hugh Hallinan, Executive Producer Downtown Cabaret Theater, a nonprofit venue in Bridgeport, Conn., spent weeks checking the SBA’s grant portal each day, and learned last Thursday that their theater had been approved for a grant of $541,000.

The theater held a news conference Tuesday with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

“We’ve been in Bridgeport for 41 years, and we’ve never had this kind of recognition,” Hallinan said in an interview. “I just thought, ‘We’re going to soak this all up right now. We’re going to take advantage of this.'”

Downtown Cabaret came close to closing last year.

“If all the patrons who had tickets called and said, ‘I want a refund,’ it was game-over time,” Mr Hallinan said. Instead, many opted for a credit to their account, and about a third donated the cost of their tickets back to the venue, Mr Hallinan said.

Funding has yet to flow to Broadway. A spokesperson for the Broadway League, a trade organization representing producers and theater owners, said none of its members had informed the group about the application approval it had received. Group President Charlotte St. Martin said last month Officials told the group that the money would start coming in by the end of May, but that deadline has now passed.

And many of the major performing arts organizations in New York City that are planning summer or planning to reopen are also still waiting. Carnegie Hall, the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theater have yet to hear back. Some, including the Public Theater and the Metropolitan Opera, which say they have lost $150 million in earned revenue since the pandemic began, will not be eligible until a later round of awards.

Mr Sitter in Oregon said he did not know why the volcano received its award so quickly. Like many applicants, it had lost at least 90 percent of its revenue during the pandemic, which qualified Volcano for the first round of grants. Others who lose less will be eligible for the prize from mid to late June.

The volcano received some federal funding last year An old round of federal pandemic relief. It’s got to be 2020, Mr Sitter said. But by last month, the volcano had plummeted to its last few thousand dollars, which was not enough to cover its rent and monthly bills for June, Mr. Sitter said. He was considering whether to sell it or discontinue it.

With the closed venue grant, Volcano could stay open until next year, when Mr. Sitter hopes his show’s pipeline will get back to normal. This weekend, it plans to hold its first show since last summer at 50 percent capacity.

“Certainly there’s not going to be much gain here,” said Mr. Sitter. “It’s just to lift people’s spirits, to say, ‘We can do this, we’re doing well, and there is a way.'”

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