We’ve Reached Crisis Stage in ‘Save Our Stages’ Saga

Surely by now those of you who are regular concert-goers are all too familiar with the impending disaster for those indie venues who were able to keep afloat during the pandemic (and many were not) but desperately need the funds PROMISED by the Small Business Administration (SBA). The money will — theoretically — be distributed through SVOG. But look carefully at the numbers above.

 

This is from the SBA website:

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program was established by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act, and amended by the American Rescue Plan Act. The program includes over $16 billion in grants to shuttered venues, to be administered by SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance.

Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue, with the maximum amount available for a single grant award of $10 million. $2 billion is reserved for eligible applications with up to 50 full-time employees.

 

Here is a quick overview of the situation as it stands now.

From Tom DeGeorge, proprietor of Crowbar, a music venue in Tampa, Florida, who has been spearheading the drive to help fellow venue owners stay open through Save Our Stages as all wait for promised funds:

WE ARE EXHAUSTED, OUR FUNDS ARE DEPLETED, WE CANNOT PAY OUR EMPLOYEES, WE CANNOT STOCK OUR SHELVES, WE CANNOT PAY OUR FALL BAND DEPOSITS. HELP US ALREADY!!!!

“Nearly six months after Congress passed the $16 billion Save Our Stages act into law, less than 100 of the nearly 5,000 struggling independent venues have been approved for relief money, according to a report released Wednesday (June 9) by the Small Business Administration, which distributes the loans — and just “a few” have actually received any funds.”

 

From Sean Watterson, co-owner of The Happy Dog in Cleveland, another music venue, and another Save Our Stages advocate:

The energy it took to fight to make Save Our Stages law, and the energy spent after it passed to work with the SBA to explain our industry and get clarity on the rules – that’s the price of admission.

The energy spent in the nine weeks since the failed launch, the six weeks since the actual launch, and especially the two weeks since the priority period FINALLY started – when the SBA knew they weren’t even close to pulling this program off – that’s just cruel, abusive and vindictive.

The Office of Disaster Assistance never wanted this program. They resented being blamed for fraud in other programs, like PPP and EIDL, and reacted spitefully, solving for the risk of fraud by not making any awards at all (90 grants in response to the 14,000 applications made).

We’ve been lied to, blamed, ignored, patronized – everything but funded. The SBA hired 500 reviewers who took 6 weeks to make 90 grant awards. Any way you do the math, it is unforgivable.

The SBA has singlehandedly done more damage to independent music venues in the last six months than covid did in the prior nine. Life savings exhausted, homes mortgaged, personal guarantees made on lines of credit – all done after the bill passed, with the expectation of implementation. 

This will take years to repair, and the   sad thing is, none of the people responsible for this epic fail will ever be held to account.

 

This from Kathy Simkoff of Grog Shop in Cleveland is sadly the norm:

 

Finally (and we use that word advisedly), read this in-depth article in Variety by Jem Aswad:

Indie Venues Send Distress Signal to Congress as $16 Billion in ‘Save Our Stages’ Relief Money Remains Tied up by SBA

 

PLEASE watch for updates here and through your local venue owners. If we hear about ways to put pressure on Congress to expedite this process, we will certainly let you know. The owners are desperate, and we should all be MAD AS HELL.

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