Congressman announces grant program for live venues
Help is on the way for live music venues in Santa Barbara County.
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, announced Thursday at a press conference at the Santa Barbara Bowl that local venue operators can now apply for grants from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.
The program was established through the COVID-19 relief package passed in December 2020, and Rep. Carbajal helped secure additional funding for it through the American Rescue Plan, totaling more than $16 billion to help venues stay afloat.
Previously, venues were unable to apply for both the SVOG program grants and the Paycheck Protection Program loans, but the American Rescue Plan removed that hurdle.
“I don’t think you could live in this region and not know what a treasure we have in this facility (the Bowl),” Rep. Carbajal said at the press conference. “But this facility is also symbolic of so many other venues that, day in and day out, enrich our culture and our communities with art and entertainment.”
Grants may be used for payroll costs, rent and utility payments, worker protection expenditures and more. Eligible applicants include: live venue operators or promoters; theatrical producers; live performing arts organization operators; relevant museum operators, zoos and aquariums who meet specific criteria; motion picture theater operators; talent representatives; and each business entity owned by an eligible entity that also meets the eligibility requirements.
“The grant program will have a direct benefit for our local economy no doubt,” Rep. Carbajal siad. “I stand with our small businesses, which I recognize are a major employer and economic driver of the Central Coast.”
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. Bowl officials said they were unsure of how much money they would receive in the grant, but that the U.S. Small Business Administration determines the need.
Rick Boller, the executive director of the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation, said the venue is grateful for the grant program and will use funds to cover critical expenses such as payroll, maintenance, utilities, insurance and more.
He added that during the time of the bowl going dark for the pandemic, crews shored up the hillside and implemented a retaining wall system after the landslide, kept its outreach programs going to help other arts nonprofits and are now working on a major stage renovation project for the next two weeks.
Mr. Boller said the bowl hopes to return to full capacity and get back to business in the fall, but said “everything will have to fall into place” for that to happen.
“We continue to make it a priority to make sure everyone feels a sense of safety for the performances here,” he said.
Tobe Plough, chair of the foundation’s board of directors, was also at the press conference, and praised Rep. Carbajal and the federal government for assisting live venues, calling the grants “absolutely instrumental.”
“We were good little squirrels and saved a lot of acorns in the way of dollars and built up a reserve fund supporting our entire staff for the last year because we knew when the venue opened again, there would be a lot of artists out there wanting to play and if we laid all these people off, we’d have a tough time training new people to take that over,” he said.
The staff includes 14 year-round employees. Mr. Plough added, “We can’t open venues like this safely unless we do have many more people vaccinated.”
Rep. Carbajal echoed the push for the community to get vaccinated, saying, “The best thing we could do as a community, if we want to get back on our feet and help venues and businesses get on their feet and our entire communities back on track, is get vaccinated and get vaccinated as soon as you can because that will allow us to go back to a sense of normalcy that will allow venues like the bowl and other businesses to thrive and prosper.”
The Lobero Theatre is another venue eligible for the SVOG grants, and the executive director, David Asbell, told the News-Press the theater plans to apply. He said that by the time June rolls around, the theater will have lost around $2.5 million.
“It’s going to be at least a year before we can really get back to the level that we were at when the pandemic shut us down,” he said. “Some say there’s going to be this pent-up urge for people to come see shows; other people say it’s going to be that people are still going to be careful for a while. It’s going to take a while for society as a whole to reemerge, and we’ll be no different than that.”
The executive director said that the theater will be tasked with restaffing practically the entire theater, along with ensuring all cleaning protocols are in place for reopening. However, he said the few staff members that still remain welcomed the governor’s announcement of reopening the economy on June 15.
Mr. Asbell said he wanted to make one comment to the Santa Barbara community at large, and that is: “Count on the Lobero being there. We’ll be open. We’ll be ready.”
To learn more about the SVOG grants and apply, visit sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/covid-19-relief-options/shuttered-venue-operators-grant. There is no deadline to apply, but funds are limited.