Entertainment venues get ‘lifeline’ grants due to effects of pandemic

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — Entertainment venues were among the first to shut their doors because of the pandemic and among the last to fully reopen, but thanks to support from the federal government, many are aiming to make a comeback this year.

The Small Business Administration has facilitated the distribution of funds from the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant (SVOG) program. 85 grants have been awarded so far in Wisconsin, totaling about $86 million.

Leaders in Milwaukee’s performing arts communities said people are craving to return to attending shows at the venues.

“There’s very few things as meaningful as attending a performance like in a space like this, that’s so beautiful, that brings people together in a way that we missed tremendously during Covid,” Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra president and executive director Mark Niehaus told CBS 58 inside the Bradley Symphony Center on Wisconsin Avenue.

The nonprofit organization is getting about $1.7 million from SVOG. Niehaus said the money will help, but it does not erase all the financial effects of the pandemic.

“It makes a difference for us, but it doesn’t solve the problem for us,” Niehaus said.

The Marcus Performing Arts Center is receiving about $6.5 million from the grant. They told CBS 58 the funds will greatly help to prepare for the return of live performances and audiences later this year.

“It’s really going to help us to reopen, frankly, this fall so that we can start hiring staff back and bringing shows back to the Marcus Center,” president and CEO Kendra Whitlock Ingram said in an interview.

The Pabst Theater Group and its foundation will get a total of about $10.8 million. Its CEO, Gary Witt, led a national effort through the National Independent Venue Association to get pandemic funding for entertainment venues.

“It’s been a long haul to get here to actually get the money distributed but it’s been worth it,” Witt told CBS 58.

While Witt says the grants have made a big impact, many other small venues are still waiting to get their applications approved, something Witt is pushing for.

“We won’t rest until all those businesses are funded because that’s what we started as,” Witt said.

More information about the recipients in Wisconsin can be found here.

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