As the emails lastly began arriving late final week, some enterprise house owners obtained the excellent news they’d been lengthy awaiting: They could be awarded a piece of a $16 billion federal grant fund supposed to protect music golf equipment, theaters and different live-event companies devastated by the pandemic.
But different candidates bumped into recent obstacles — together with the invention that the federal government thinks they’re useless. It was the most recent bureaucratic mishap for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant initiative, an help program created by Congress late final 12 months that has struggled at practically each flip to disburse badly wanted reduction funds.
Derek Sitter, the proprietor of the Volcanic Theater Pub, a 250-capacity music and efficiency venue in Bend, Ore., was at dwelling on Saturday watching a British soccer recreation when an alert popped up on his cellphone: “Congratulations,” ran the topic line of an e mail from the Small Business Administration, which manages the grant program.
Mr. Sitter ran outdoors to inform his spouse and daughter the information, with tears swelling in his eyes. “My heart rate increased,” he recalled in an interview. “But it was a good increase.”
The Volcanic was awarded about $140,000, Mr. Sitter stated, although the funds haven’t but arrived. (The dimension of the grant is pegged at 45 p.c of a venue’s gross income from 2019.) Just what number of venues have discovered that their functions have been accepted is unclear, however members of the community of small venues — which turned a tightly related hive in the course of the pandemic — say they’ve heard of solely a few to this point. The Small Business Administration has not launched particulars on what number of claims it has accepted.
Bobby McKey’s, a piano bar close to Washington, is caught in bureaucratic limbo. Bob Hansan, the venue’s managing associate, stated that his utility was stalled as a result of the federal government thinks he’s useless. Credit…Charles King/C King Media
Other candidates obtained grimmer information. Bob Hansan, the managing associate of Bobby McKey’s, a piano bar close to Washington, acquired a cryptic e mail Tuesday afternoon that started: “Your name appears on the Do Not Pay list with the Match Source DMF.”
A couple of minutes of frantic Googling revealed that was a reference to the federal government’s Death Master File, a file of greater than 83 million folks whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration.
Mr. Hansan instantly known as Social Security’s headquarters, which referred him to his native workplace, which informed Mr. Hansan that they may discover no file of his identify anyplace on the loss of life listing. The workplace agreed to ship him a type affirming that he’s alive, however the doc can solely be despatched by mail, he was informed — a course of he worries might be sluggish.
“It’s this continual drip-drop of delays,” he stated.
Michael Swier, the founding father of the Bowery Ballroom and the Mercury Lounge in New York — and a outstanding determine within the unbiased music world — additionally acquired notification early Wednesday that he was thought-about useless, and stated that he was beside himself attempting to grasp how you can appropriate the error.
“What do I do? What kind of proof do they need?” Mr. Swier stated. “Can I say over the phone, ‘It’s me’?”
Representatives of the Small Business Administration didn’t reply questions in regards to the faulty loss of life information.
Michael Swier, the founding father of the Bowery Ballroom and the Mercury Lounge in New York, was informed he was thought-about useless. (He is alive.) “What do I do?” he requested. “What type of proof do they want?”Credit…Michal Czerwonka for The New York Times
The glitches had been the most recent to bedevil this system, which has suffered many delays, together with a full failure of its on-line system on the day it tried to begin taking functions. (The utility system lastly opened in late April.)
Some 13,000 folks utilized, looking for a whole of $11 billion. The Small Business Administration has not but launched particulars on what number of it has accepted.
In Facebook teams and on Twitter, frantic enterprise house owners have been swapping suggestions and attempting to glean the place within the utility course of their very own declare is likely to be.
Some venues are starting to get excellent news.
Hugh Hallinan, the manager producer of Downtown Cabaret Theater, a nonprofit venue in Bridgeport, Conn., spent weeks checking the S.B.A.’s grant portal every day, and final Thursday discovered that his theater had been accepted for a $541,000 grant.
On Tuesday the theater held a information convention with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
“We’ve been in Bridgeport for 41 years, and we’ve never gotten recognition like this,” Mr. Hallinan stated in an interview. “I just thought, ‘We’re going to soak it all up right now. We’re going to bask in it.’”
Downtown Cabaret got here near shutting down final 12 months.
Downtown Cabaret Theater, in Bridgeport, Conn., which got here near shutting down, discovered that it had been accepted for a $541,000 grant. Credit…Richard Pettibone
“If all patrons who had tickets called in and said, ‘I need a refund,’ it was game-over time,” Mr. Hallinan stated. Instead, many opted for a credit score on their account, and about a third of donated the price of their tickets again to the venue, Mr. Hallinan stated.
The funding has not but began flowing to Broadway. A spokeswoman for the Broadway League, a commerce group representing producers and theater house owners, stated that none of its members had notified the group about receiving utility approvals. Charlotte St. Martin, the group’s president, had stated final month that officers had informed the group that cash would begin coming in by the top of May, however that deadline has now handed.
And a number of main performing arts organizations in New York City which can be planning summer season or fall reopenings are additionally nonetheless ready. Carnegie Hall, the New York Philharmonic, New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater haven’t but heard again. Some, together with the Public Theater and the Metropolitan Opera, which says that it has misplaced $150 million in earned revenues for the reason that pandemic began, is not going to be eligible till a later spherical of awards.
Mr. Sitter, in Oregon, stated he had no concept why the Volcanic obtained its award so early. Like many candidates, it had misplaced a minimum of 90 p.c of its income in the course of the pandemic, which certified the Volcanic for the primary spherical of grants. Others who misplaced much less might be eligible for awards in mid- to late June.
The Volcanic acquired some federal cash final 12 months from an earlier spherical of federal pandemic reduction. That obtained it by 2020, Mr. Sitter stated. But by final month, the Volcanic was right down to its previous few thousand dollars, not sufficient to cowl its hire and month-to-month payments for June, Mr. Sitter stated. He was contemplating whether or not to promote or shut it down.
With the shuttered venue grant, the Volcanic can keep open till subsequent 12 months, when Mr. Sitter expects its pipeline of reveals to be again to regular. This weekend, it’s planning to placed on its first reveals since final summer season, at 50 p.c capability.
“There’s certainly not a lot of profit going to be made here,” Mr. Sitter stated. “This is simply to lift the spirits of people, to say, ‘We can kind of do this, we’re doing good, and there is a way out.’”