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Funding on the way, but future uncertain for local concert venues

Posted at 10:37 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 22:37:26-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Months after the State Legislature and Congress approved funding for concert venues in Michigan, the money is finally starting to makes its way to the affected businesses.

“Artists aren’t touring, and we haven’t had a show since last March,” said Michelle Hanks, co-owner of Seven Steps Up in Spring Lake. “We have no revenue, all of our employees have been laid off; we have stopped as many services as we can.”

Hanks says venues can’t wait for the assistance any longer.

Earlier this month, the State, as part of a COVID relief bill passed in December, distributed more than $3 million in aid to 101 venues across 35 counties. Hanks’s venue received $9,000, which she says will help cover three months of rent.

“It gives us a little bit of breathing room,” said Hanks.

However, both Hanks and the Michigan Independent Venues and Promoters Association, who lobbied for the state aid, describe it as a bridge to the federal funding, also known as the Shutter Venues Operators Grant.

Applications open April 8 and will make a total of $15 billion available to music venues and promoters across the United States. Congress approved the funds in December. According to a spokeswoman for the Small Business Administration, the delay is due to the SBA building the SVOG program from the ground up.

Hank plans to apply and hopes it allows her to adapt her business to the pandemic. She wants to host outdoor concerts and live-streamed concerts this summer.

“I can take the stress away from, ‘Am I making a mistake?’ to ‘We can try this, see what happens. If it’s good, great, and if it’s not, no worries,’” said Hanks.

With places planning for their future, Scott Hammontree, says it’s time to start establishing what that will look like.

Hammontree founded MIVPA and is the operating manager at The Intersection in Grand Rapids.

“We don’t know what that looks like,” said Hammontree. “What we’re seeing in states around us like Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio is kind of a detailed plan that says if the positivity rate is here, you can do this or you can do that.”

Hammontree says it takes three to six months to book and promote a show, and sorting out the reopening guidelines plays a big role in the process of when concerts may be able to happen.

“Even if they say, ‘The numbers are here; you can be at 75 percent,’ at least we can talk to the agents for the artists and say, ‘Yep, this is where we’re at; here’s our offer,’” said Hammontree.

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