Arts Commentary: Shuttered Venue Operators Grant — To the Rescue

By Steve Provizer

We want to hear the music and see the show — so sharpen your pencil and get that dough.

Let’s hope this doesn’t last much longer. Photo:Wiki Commons.

I’ve been writing in the magazine about the increasingly precarious state of local artists and venues because of the pandemic. Here and here and here.

As I have already observed, an operator who owns the building the venue is in is best situated to weather the storm. But every operator is under pressure to make a monthly nut and can’t indefinitely dedicate space in the building for music or productions that could otherwise be leased to revenue-generating tenants.

Some arts organizations have availed themselves of PPP grants and Economic Injury Disaster loans, but there is another program that can be a lifesaver for music and art spaces called the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SGOV). The Small Business Administration (SBA) will disburse these funds for expenses incurred between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021. The SBA will accept applications on a rolling basis until the full $16 billion appropriated to the program is awarded. See the details and video tutorials that can help you through the process here.

You can also get help from the Arts and Business Council and its associated group Volunteers Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts (VLA). You can start by scheduling a 15-minute interview with them. All the info is here.

As with all grants, the devil is in the details. Like the man said, you gotta know the territory. That means having a clear understanding of the program requirements. To give you a sense of what the parameters are, the funds have to be used for at least one of these purposes:

  • Payroll costs
  • Principal or interest payments on covered mortgage obligations
  • Covered rent payments
  • Covered utility payments
  • Principal or interest payments on indebtedness or debt instruments incurred in the ordinary course of business prior to February 5, 2020
  • Covered expenses associated with protecting workers from exposure to the novel coronavirus
  • Payments to independent contractors up to $100,000 in annual compensation
  • Other ordinary and necessary business expenses, including maintenance and administrative costs or fees, state and local taxes, payments under insurance policies, or expenses in promoting or producing live theatrical performances can’t operate as a middleman between arts venues and those with the cash. However, we understand that part of our responsibility is helping the art and music we love survive and prosper. We want to hear the music and see the show — so sharpen your pencil and get that dough.

Steve Provizer writes on a range of subjects, most often the arts. He is a musician and blogs about jazz here.


  1. […] situation, sits  the Small Business Administation (SBA). This unlikely triangle was created by the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, a potentially vital influx of money whose distribution is being severely impeded by red tape and […]

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