INDIANAPOLIS – In late December, lawmakers rushed to push out a bill to help fund struggling entertainment venues. Over three months later, these places just have the chance to apply for these grants.
“Obviously we wanted this to happen a lot faster,” said Josh Baker, owner of Fountain Square HiFi concert hall. “Everyone was waiting, so that put us in a really bad position at a really bad time.”
They are called closed site operator grants (SVOG). On April 8, establishments will be able to apply for money. Baker attributes the application time to many factors.
“You had an election and confirmed a new director of the Small Business Administration (SBA). This particular program is the first time that the SBA has done a grant program, which they are normally used to doing in loan programs. Making sure there is no fraud is a fairly important process that happens quite quickly. “
HiFi was forced to rebuild its next outdoor concert hall with what little funds it had left. The concert venue built an outdoor space last year to be able to host concerts during the pandemic. At the time, capacity was severely limited inside their typical interior room.
The majority of acts were local bands performing in front of an outdoor space with a capacity of 250 people. The new site will feature a much larger stage and accommodate 900 people at full capacity. Baker hopes it pays off after this long battle to survive.
“I would say we’re doing it, but barely. Lots of I-Owe-You type stuff and ‘help us now, pay yourself later’, ”Baker said before explaining that bigger name bands are clamoring to be booked for months to come.
“I would say this year, or the next two years, will be the busiest concert season you’ve ever seen. The annex will be 75,000 [fans] just this summer. Bands that toured maybe 30 to 40 days a year, or 50 days last year, will play 150 days this year. “
To make matters worse on the sites is the fact that the grant originally prevented places from applying for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. That recently changed, but not before the sites went months without funding.
“Unfortunately, it was [amended] right next to the [PPP application] deadline, so a lot of people rushed to get it and then they extended the deadline, ”Baker adds,“ that’s the kind of thing we’re going through. “
“If you apply for PPP and you get an SVOG grant, you subtract your PPP money from that. The SVOG grant basically pays him back, ”said Matthew Baizer, COO of Flix Brewhouse.
Flix in Carmel remains closed. It was the company’s most profitable location in 2019. Flix Brewhouse is a brewery and theater that offers a menu of food prepared from scratch. To reopen, they believe it will take federal funding, more vaccines to improve customer confidence and help from Hollywood.
“It will take a steady supply of films. Nobody goes to a movie theater to look at a blank screen, ”Baizer smiled.
Theaters have struggled to come out of the pandemic as movie companies have started to release new movies right to home. Companies like DC Comics have partnered with HBO to release their films in theaters as well as on the HBO Max platform.
“Are they going to give us exclusive cinema rights? Or will they be released back home? This is the question on Baizer’s mind.
There are several big movies waiting to be released, but Flix is hoping movie companies will pick them up first.
“All of those big movie titles are out of the box, and now it’s a positional issue,” Baizer added.
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