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Maine entertainment venues still waiting on federal funding

Independent theaters and music venue owners tell NEWS CENTER Maine they haven't received any of the allotted $16.1 million from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant
Credit: NCM

MAINE, USA — Five months ago, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant was signed into law which allocates $16.1 million to entertainment venues across the state and country. But venue owners in Maine said their applications haven't even been processed, and they're frustrated.

"Everyone's sort of stuck in limbo and you know every day in limbo is more expenses incurred," Shaun Boyle, owner of the Eveningstar Cinema in Brunswick, said.

"A third of my debt could have been fixed if the federal government got a little quicker," Portland House of Music owner Ken Bell added.

Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King are among the more than 150 members of Congress who signed a letter to the Small Business Administration two months ago, asking for the application portal to be opened to allow more venue owners to apply and receive funding.

The letter says in part, "With each passing day, more independent businesses are forced to shutter permanently or file for bankruptcy."

For venues like the Eveningstar Cinema and Portland House of Music, this could help a lot.

"The amount of money that the evening star will receive is about a year's worth of operating expenses," Boyle said.

The deadline to process all applications from businesses that have lost 90 percent or more of revenue was Thursday, and only 90 of the 14,000 applications have been processed so far.

"Someone's been dangling a lifesaver in front of you for 5 months and you can only imagine how many bills we've taken on and how much debt we've taken on being closed over the last 15 months, and they're telling us there's something right there but it's just out of reach," Bell said.

King's office tells NEWS CENTER Maine that the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant team has been replaced by administration staff who worked on the restaurant revitalization fund with the hope of distributing funds sooner rather than later.

Both the Eveningstar Cinema and Portland House of Music are getting ready to reopen next month for the first time since the start of the pandemic.