Thursday, June 10th 2021, 9:22 am
By: Jordan Dafnis
OKLAHOMA CITY -
Almost six months after Congress passed the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant into law, local entertainment venues are struggling and waiting for financial support.
Without the funds, entertainment venues such as Tower Theatre, can't get back on their feet.
"We've got to pay back an awful lot of debt from the last year,” Tower Theatre operating partner Chad Whitehead said. “We have also not been able to do a lot of repairs on the building. A lot of things that just needed to be done.”
Whitehead said the venue lost most of its revenue during the pandemic. He believes the economic boost is essential to get things going again.
"We have had very limited availability to make payroll since January of this year,” Whitehead said. “Thankfully, we have been able to keep our hourly staff on wages or the work that they do, but our salary staff have been on cut wages and are still waiting to be made whole."
Tower Theatre is not the only business impacted. Businesses around the theatre -- the restaurants, bars, Ubers and babysitters, for example – are also taking a hit. There is a smaller, yet still vital economy that thrives around live entertainment waiting to start up again.
As entertainment venues wait, paycheck protection program loans have gone out and Restaurant Revitalization funds have been received.
In a letter to Congress, the National Independent Venue Association asked why it is taking so long for the Small Business Association to process the funding.
There are nearly 15,000 venues across the country that have applied for the grant.
Similar to Tower Theatre, around 30 percent of those venues lost out on more than 90 percent of their revenue due to the pandemic.
They are the first in line to receive help.
In their latest report Wednesday morning, the SBA said it has given out 90 grants, two to venues in Oklahoma.
Whitehead said the Tower Theatre has not received a response.
News 9 reached out to the Small Business Administration several times Wednesday. We have not yet received a response.
Whitehead said Oklahoma U.S. Senator Stephanie Bice's office also reached out and did not hear back.
"It also helps us kind of get ready for the fall and to make plans and make preparations,” Whitehead said. “Things are going to be very busy. We are going to have a lot of entertainment options."
Tower Theatre has events running right now with reduced capacity. The theatre plans to return to full capacity and full-strength August 13 with headliner Shakey Graves.