SBA Expects ‘Save Our Stages’ Money to Finally Reach Indie Venues Next Week

Satellite club in Los Angeles closes

The Small Business Administration says it submitted 11,500 applications for federal aid from independent venues and theaters last week, and expects to begin sending out payments next week, according to a statement from an SBA rep. The total is up approximately 1,200 from last week.

Indie venues have been struggling to keep afloat since the pandemic began more than 14 months ago, and although the $16 billion Save Our Stages act was passed into law on Dec. 27, they have received no aid thus far, due to problems with the SBA website and other complications.

“It is expected SVOG Priority 1 (90% revenue loss) awards will begin next week and, per the statute, continue for 14 days,” the rep says. “Following them, the SBA will progress on to processing Priority 2 awards, per fund availability.” By that estimate, Priority 2 (70% revenue loss) would begin receiving funds in mid-June, and Priority 3 (25% revenue loss) in late June or July. (Head here for more information on federal grants.)

Audrey Fix Shaefer of the National Independent Venue Association tells Variety: “This emergency relief can’t come soon enough for those on the precipice of going under. We’ll be very grateful when the money is distributed as Congress intended. It’s been very hard to hold on, but even tougher to plan for reopening without the money to hire back staff, rent venues and secure acts with deposits. It will be incredible when the $16 billion Congress earmarked to save our stages becomes a reality.”

It took eight months of intense lobbying to get Save Our Stages passed, then another four months for the Small Business Administration to launch its Shuttered Venues Operators Grant website, through which venues must apply for federal aid — it immediately crashed, and was relaunched two and a half weeks later, after dozens of members of Congress, particularly those who sponsored or supported Save Our Stages, called for a quick reopening. When the site finally opened, it received more than 17,000 applications in the first 24 hours.

The delay in relief funding has caused immeasurable problems for independent venues and theaters and has ironically aided large live-entertainment companies like Live Nation and AEG: Even with states opening back up, independent venues do not have the funding to secure talent or re-hire their staffs, festival promoters aren’t able to secure fields to hold their events, and the ecosystem around much of the live industry remains stalled — five and a half months after Save Our Stages was passed into law; PPP and the newly launched Restaurant Relief Fund were distributing millions of dollars within days.

Venues can apply for aid here. https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/covid-19-relief-options/shuttered-venue-operators-grant