Delay in grant program putting arts, entertainment venues at risk, operators say

Local arts and entertainment organizations and venues across the region, including the Schuster Center and Liberty Tower (background), raised awareness about their industry’s financial plight on Red Alert Day of Action on Tuesday, Sept. 1. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Local arts and entertainment organizations and venues across the region, including the Schuster Center and Liberty Tower (background), raised awareness about their industry’s financial plight on Red Alert Day of Action on Tuesday, Sept. 1. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Delays and errors put companies at risk of permanent closure

Dayton Live and other local entertainment venues are joining other national arts groups calling for the immediate and full release of emergency funds from the Small Business Administration.

The $16.1 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, signed into law in December 2020, provides eligible movie theaters, live venue operators and promoters, talent representatives, and performing arts organizations with grants equal to 45 percent of their 2019 gross earned revenue, up to a maximum of $10 million.

Currently, SBA errors and delays have put businesses and organizations at risk, including Dayton Live, the organization said. The SBA missed its June 9 deadline to grant funds to those businesses suffering 90 percent or more losses and to begin making grants to the second tier of businesses suffering 70 percent or more losses.

A request for comment from the SBA was not returned Thursday.

More than 4,910 small business owners in the first priority period, those with the greatest need, and an additional 10,000 independent businesses that fall into the second and third priority periods, are still waiting for emergency relief funding, according to the release. As of June 9, the SBA reported it had awarded a total of 90 grants.

The Brightside, a multi-purpose venue on East Third Street that hosts public events like concerts and performances and private events like weddings, is one of those businesses waiting for the funds.

Carli Dixon, who owns and operates the venue with her husband, said she is thankful legislators agreed to provide the relief but said missed deadlines make it tough for local businesses to plan and budget.

“It makes a massive difference for how we move forward and right now we are in a holding pattern,” she said.

The businesses the SVOG was passed to help adds energy and the vibrancy of our community, Dixon said.

“We lose so much of the texture of our community if those places can’t make it through this,” she said, adding it will have a negative impact on everyone in and around Dayton.

“The continued and lengthy delays from the Small Business Administration on the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant funding is bringing arts organizations of all shapes and sizes to a breaking point,” said Ty Sutton, president and CEO of Dayton Live. “Local venues and arts organizations – small businesses that Dayton Live has been advocating on behalf of – have a pressing need for this funding. ”

Sutton told the Dayton Daily News a number of business owners have made financial decisions anticipating the promised relief from the government. He said the SVOG was passed six months ago as emergency relief and it’s time for it to be paid out.

“The nationwide recovery of the live arts and entertainment ecosystem depends on the successful delivery of this vital federal relief,” said Lisa Richards Toney, president and CEO of Association of Performing Arts Professionals, in a release. “As the performing arts venues and organizations that are the fabric of communities across America, we are proud of collective efforts to fight for our survival, and we are rallying to cross the finish line.”

SVOG stakeholders said they are experiencing a talent drain, cannot reopen, and are hanging on by a thread due to funding not arriving quickly enough. The overall fear is that small businesses in particular will close due to no fault of their own.

“It’s unconscionable that this has taken more than six months with little result,” added Sutton.