Leisure venues in Sonoma County may help

A month ago things looked bleak for the Cloverdale Arts Alliance. Their daily rain fund was exhausted and they had to cut all their programs because of the pandemic.

Then the organization, which runs a downtown arts center and sponsors an outdoor concert series, received a federal grant of $ 90,452 through a program called Shuttered Venue Operators Grants.

“We ran out of money so we took out a loan from the Small Business Association,” said Mark Tharrington, executive director. “Now we can pay it back.”

The arts center, which usually hosts indoor music nights, workshops, and art exhibitions, is now ready to reopen, he said. This also applies to the free outdoor concert series Friday Night Live with live acts that can be booked by October 1st.

The Cloverdale Organization is one of more than 30 troubled Sonoma County entertainment companies receiving financial aid through the program.

Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, along with Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, as part of the bipartisan COVID-19 aid package passed by Congress in December.

34 Sonoma County venues alone have received or are receiving more than $ 40 million from the program.

“Local businesses in the music and entertainment industries are an important part of our communities – they create good jobs, strengthen the economy and contribute to the culture of our region,” Huffman said in a press release on Wednesday.

Some of the largest recipients of grants have been cinema operators, with San Carlos Cinemas, which operates Santa Rosa Cinemas, receiving $ 9.3 million; Petalumas Boulevard 14 Cinemas Operator Receives $ 4.7 million; and Lodi Cinemas, also affiliated with Santa Rosa Cinemas, will receive $ 3.8 million. Two Sebastopol-based theater groups affiliated with Rialto Cinemas received $ 1.3 million and $ 1.2 million for cinemas in Berkeley, El Cerrito and Sebastopol.

The Luther Burbank Foundation, which owns and operates the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, received $ 2.1 million in aid. Richard Nowlin, President and CEO of the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, said, “We are very grateful for these funds along with our community of loyal donors and supporters and our federal officials who made this possible.”

Most of the grant will go to payroll to replace employees laid off at the start of the pandemic, he said.

“We’re hiring to bring back as many of our remaining staff as possible and we’re hiring new people as we start performing live later this month,” he said. “You need a certain amount of staff to operate, and we are expecting smaller houses at the beginning. … Still we will have the same expenses to upgrade again. These (grant) dollars will help with these expenses. “

The scholarships also went to smaller venues or groups in the performing arts. Super Diamond, a Neil Diamond tribute band at McNear’s Mystic Theater in Petaluma, received $ 273,391.

The federal grant program was initially plagued by technical problems, which Huffman’s office said had been greatly improved. The day the application portal opened, it crashed and didn’t open again for almost three weeks. Huffman joined a bipartisan group of more than 200 members of Congress calling on the Small Business Administration to expedite the release of the money. The SBA has now approved 9,844 grants, including 1,393 in California.

“The American rescue plan created the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program to provide a lifeline to troubled companies, but that funding has been difficult for many to access,” said Huffman. “The move by the Small Business Administration to improve and accelerate the critical funding approval process is welcome news.”

Ky J. Boyd, director of Rialto Cinemas with Theaters in Sebastopol, said his company applied for SVOG grants and the extension of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, “and our applications stayed in the system for weeks. This funding is vital to my business and the local economy. Congressman Huffman’s office was able to get information about my loans and they were finally approved. “

He also commended Sens. Chuck Schumer, leader of the Democratic Minority, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, for running the program, which originally began as two separate funds: Save Our Screens and Save Our Stages.

“We are a multitude of operators – playhouses, concert promoters, cinemas, museums,” said Boyd. “It must have tried to create a program for all of us, but the SBA did it and we are grateful.”

Thousands of people have applied and there are three prize tiers. Another lucky scholar is Tom Brand, executive director of the Healdsburg Performing Arts Center, which operates as the Raven Performing Arts Center. The center was closed during the pandemic, but should be able to reopen as early as October with a one-person show.

“We’re going to be able to put some money in the bank now, and if you look at the list of recipients, a lot of people will be saved by this bill,” he said.

A senior at a local entertainment center, who preferred not to comment, said he had not yet received the scholarship and was having difficulty navigating the system. The grant says it is “pending,” they said.

The grant program was established through the bipartisan COVID-19 relief package passed in December 2020.

The American Rescue Plan also put in place a solution to ensure that closed venues that received loans from the Paycheck Protection Program after December 27, 2020 can also receive a small venue grant as long as the grant is equal to the amount provided PPP funding is reduced. Applications for both funding programs were previously prohibited.

You can reach the Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at [email protected] or 707-521-5209 and Dan Taylor at [email protected]

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