Local entertainment venues are eagerly awaiting funding from the recently signed COVID relief package, even though they still can’t host an audience.
The “Save Our Stages” Act, which is included in the package, is expected to provide $15 billion to eligible live entertainment venues, performing arts organizations, museums, and motion picture operators across the country that have been shut down during the pandemic.
This includes The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford whose seats have been empty for more than nine months.
That’s when they had to close their doors indefinitely because of the pandemic.
With payroll approaching, no tickets being sold, and people wanting refunds, The Bushnell Chief Financial Officer Patti Jackson said that devastatingly meant furloughing stagehands and front of house folks like ushers.
“Closed, who would ever close a venue?” Jackson described the reaction of the theater’s board of directors when they heard about Europe’s closures. “Two to three weeks later, we closed. Every show that was on the schedule, which had been scheduled 18 months prior to that, is just not coming.”
Once the Small Business Administration decides a framework to divvy out the $15 billion of authorized funding, event operators will be able to apply to grants up to $10 million to help with payroll, rent, utilities, and PPE.
Cash the owners of the “The Infinity Music Hall” in Hartford say could be "life-changing."
“Not only do we not have any revenue because no one is buying any tickets, but you have to give everybody their money back, so it’s been brutal. We’ve had to layoff pretty much anybody,” said GoodWorks Entertainment partner David Rosenfeld. GoodWorks Entertainment runs the music venue.
While this money won’t mean “the show will go on” any time soon, it’ll at least help in the meantime.
“I mean, go try to raise money for a for-profit organization in this circumstance, like there’s basically a gun to your head,” said Rosenfeld.
The hope is that this funding will also impact nearby restaurants, stores, and establishments.
And for the hundreds of local stagehands, like Brian Kulvete, a head audio engineer at The Bushnell, this announcement gives him some hope.
“They kept pushing the start date, so you think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and then that light just gets further away, so you just get by how you can.”
Kulvete’s been out of a job. Monday was only his second time in the theater since March.
He hopes that his fellow stagehands will be able to dim the lights for a full house in the future.
“It’s just full of energy and happy people coming in and leaving and it’s totally missed right now.”