Credit: Courtesy of Arthur Fisher

Concert venues across the country have shuttered operations due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Santa Barbara’s arts scene has not been excluded from the tough economic hit. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, launched yesterday, is a national aid program meant to help carry venues through the COVID-19 pandemic until concerts and other events can be held again. 

The grant provides a total of $16.5 billion through the U.S. Small Business Administration to aid  live venue operators and promoters, theatrical producers, museum operators, movie theater operators, and more. These operators can receive up to 45 percent of lost earned revenue from the past year, up to $10 million. 

Congressmember Salud Carbajal spoke in a press conference Thursday afternoon from the Scranton Overlook of the Santa Barbara Bowl to discuss how the grant would benefit Santa Barbara–area venue operators such as the Bowl. 

“This facility is symbolic of so many other venues that day in and day out enrich our culture and our communities with arts and entertainment,” Carbajal said. “I’m glad to serve as a federal partner to ensure that cultural institutions in our region not only survive, but thrive.” 

The Shuttered Venues Operators (SVO) Grant is one part of greater COVID-19 relief passed in December 2020 meant to help business owners, such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Unlike with previous grants, venue operators are able to receive both PPP and SVO funding. 

For the first time since opening in 1936, the Santa Barbara Bowl has been closed for an extended period of time, due to local, state, and national guidelines prohibiting concerts and other large gatherings. The Bowl employs 14 year-round staff members, who have all kept their jobs over the past year, but funding those salaries meant the Bowl was forced to dip into its reserve funds. 

As Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation Executive Director Rick Boller explained in the press conference, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant will help the Bowl replenish expenses incurred over the past year, along with funding operational costs to prepare for opening back up to the public. Boller said they hope to open the Bowl back up by this fall, with the goal of full capacity, but that setting an opening date entirely depends on guidance from local and state officials. If COVID-19 hospitalization rates continue to drop and vaccination rates continue to rise, venues across the county can open up sooner. 

“The best thing we can do as a community, if we want to help venues and businesses get back on their feet, is to get vaccinated as soon as possible, because that will allow us to go back to a sense of normalcy, that will allow venues like the Bowl and other businesses thrive and prosper,” Carbajal said.  

Venue operators can now apply for funding through the grant, and applications will remain open until funds are depleted.

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