Soledad O’Brien finds opportunity in failure
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Entrepreneur staff, Entrepreneur
Go to any community – from big cities to small towns – and at the heart you’ll find a place where people come together to experience live events, such as concerts, plays, a museum or a movie theater.
It’s the place where locals go Saturday night and parents take their kids, and it draws visitors from out of town. More than just about any other type of small business, these companies have suffered from a near-death blow by COVID-19. The federal government has thrown them a lifeline.
Applications for “Shuttered Venue Operator Grants” (SVOG) to help live event venues survive opened April 26, but small businesses that want a grant better hurry to apply. Although there’s $16.2 billion, these funds will run out, and soon.
“We were waiting to apply, and we were ready, we were prepared,” said Cathy Buck, owner of the Cameo Cinema, a 108-year-old, one-screen movie theater in Saint Helena, California, who applied the first day the Small Business Administration started taking applications. “We waited in the portal line for over three hours. We were 300th something in line.”
Cameo is California’s oldest continuously operated single-screen movie theater, but it was in danger of shutting its doors permanently. That would have been a grave loss. Though Saint Helena, at the center of Napa Valley, attracts tourists, Cameo Cinema primarily serves locals, many of whom work in the winery and tourist industries.
“Ninety percent of our customers are locals,” Buck said. “The Cameo revitalizes the downtown area. People who come to a movie will shop, eat at one of the local small restaurants.”
For Kevin Coleman, president of the board of the not-for-profit Cameo Cinema Foundation, which was set up to provide support for community events, Cameo is more than a theater.
“In addition to running movies, the Cameo has a program to teach filmmaking to young people, holds special series on important educational topics, runs ‘CinemaBites’ where a movie is paired with food from a local chef to highlight local restaurants,” Coleman said. “And the big event is the family film festival. It’s hard to imagine how if the Cameo disappeared that anything could replace it.”
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Like other venues throughout the country, the Cameo is struggling even after some COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. The Cameo received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan in 2020 that enabled it to keep staff employed, but that didn’t pay enough of the bills.
“We may be open, but we are only seeing 25-30% occupancy,” Buck said. “We’re not seeing the capacity numbers like 2019. Where I might have grossed $40,000 a month, I’m seeing half that, but our fixed costs remain the same. And due to COVID, there are increased costs for extra cleaning and more staff, so there’s no line at the concession stand. That’s what the SVOG money is for.”
If you or someone you know runs a live event venue – or is a talent promoter – check out the grants.
Who qualifies for the Shuttered Venue Operator Grants?
- Live venue operators or promoters
- Theatrical producers
- Live performing arts organization operators
- Museum operators
- Motion picture theater operators
- Talent representatives
Venues must have been in operation as of Feb. 29, 2020.
How much can recipients get?
Grants equal 45% of 2019 gross earned revenue, minus any PPP funds received after Dec. 27; the maximum amount available for a single grant is $10 million.
If your shuttered venue had gross earned revenue of $100,000 in 2019, and you received a PPP forgivable loan in May 2020, you might still qualify for a $45,000 grant.
Is a Shuttered Venue Operator Grant a loan?
No, it’s a grant. You do not have to pay this money back.
How do you apply for the Shuttered Venue Operator Grants?
Apply and get more information from the Small Business Administration SVOG portal.
There are changes to many other small business programs. Register at www.RhondaAbrams.com/subscribe, and I’ll keep you updated on government and other help available to you.
Rhonda Abrams is one of America’s leading small business experts and author of the A “Top 30 Global Guru” for startups, herbook “Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies” was named one of the 100 best business strategy books. Connect with Rhonda on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Register for Rhonda’s free business tips newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.