After a long wait, concert halls secured themselves for millions in pandemic relief grants


After months of waiting, concert halls, promoters, theaters and attractions in Tampa Bay are bracing for a long-awaited pandemic relief boon.

The $ 16 billion closed site operator grants were part of a pandemic relief package adopted in December, but were delayed for several weeks as the Small Business Administration made changes and found how the deploy. Applications will finally be available on April 8, according to the agency.

They don’t arrive a moment too early.

“They’ve been slow as molasses in developing the criteria and the process,” said Judy Lisi, president and CEO of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. “A lot of these organizations, and especially a lot of these theaters, are hanging on by the nails. It is therefore essential that they get it. It just took so long. This thing was signed in December and we are now in April. Another whole quarter has passed.

Related: Closed Tampa Bay entertainment venues may soon see relief

Under the program, venues, concert promoters, theater companies and a host of other entities can apply for grants of up to 45% of their gross revenues as of 2019, with support capped at 10. millions of dollars. Grants will be awarded first to sites that have lost 90% of their revenue in a given quarter, then 70%, then 25%.

Small business administration latest guidelines give more details about who may or may not receive funds. Among those that are likely left out are drive-in theaters, wedding and event spaces, and theaters owned and controlled by publicly traded companies like Live Nation.

Some sites have already received assistance in the form of Paycheck Protection Program loans through the Small Business Administration. Originally, grant applicants for closed site operators were not eligible to apply for a second loan this spring. But the latest relief and stimulus package, adopted this month, removed that restriction, meaning organizations can now apply for both. (The total amount of the loans will however be deducted from the grant allocations).

Among the many sites in Tampa Bay that received loans last spring: the Straz Center, which raised $ 2,828,859; ZooTampa at Lowry Park ($ 2,155,051); the Florida Aquarium ($ 1,983,977); Ruth Eckerd Hall ($ 1,234,235); and the Salvador Dali Museum ($ 703,000). The Small Business Administration has yet to release totals for its second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans.

Related: Concerts return to Tampa Bay as troubled venues await government help

Ruth Eckerd Hall spokeswoman Katie Pedretty said the venue had lost 90% of its business and planned to ask for a maximum of $ 10 million. The venue did not apply for a second loan, she said.

ZooTampa President and CEO Joseph Couciero secured a second loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, and said the zoo would also apply for a grant after losing “a significant amount of earned income,” but he expected the zoo to be part of a lower priority grant level. recipients.

Lisi said the Straz Center plans to seek both the grants and a second loan, in part because the pool of potential applicants has grown.

“Originally, they thought there would be 10,000 winners. Now looks like it’s going to hit 30,000, ”she said. “I think they’re going to run out of money. My CFO said she was doing both, which I was grateful for, because I really think it’s going to be a race to the end, and I don’t think so. not that there will be enough money. I prefer to hedge my bets. “

Yet small organizations are eager to seek all the help they can. The Carrollwood Cultural Center secured a loan of $ 64,870 last spring, as well as a second loan of over $ 77,000 this spring, said executive director Paul Berg. And there is still a lot of need.

“We’re going to go out there and see what we can get, because the performing arts need all the help they can get,” Berg said. “If we get something, it’s great. This is more than what we had before and it complements all the loss of income with everything that is going on. I have lost sight of the amount of potential income that we have lost. “

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