Performing arts centers look for federal relief after months of no revenue

Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 7:24 PM CDT
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No tickets are being collected and people aren’t being ushered to their seats inside performing arts centers these days as the result of the pandemic.

While the curtain isn’t opening, revenue isn’t coming in.

“When you come into our venues in our doors, you can leave the struggles of the days behind you or the week behind you,” said Dillon McArdle, the Weber Center executive director.

Unfortunately, patrons have not been able to enter performing arts venues like the Weber and Pablo Centers since March.

The doors will most likely remain closed through 2020.

“We were the first to close and, knowing for public health concerns, we will be one of the last to open,” said Jason Jon Anderson, Pablo Center executive director.

“The arts and culture industry has been hit the hardest by this,” McArdle added.

COVID-19 has had a financial impact on performing arts centers throughout the region, state, and nation.

“The Pablo Center has seen more revenues going out the door than coming into the door,” Anderson said. “We’ve refunded $165,000 in tickets since we closed in the start of March.”

The Pablo Center says it lost around $750,000 between March and June after 75 scheduled events could not be hosted.

For the Weber Center, its lost at least 25-50 percent of its yearly revenue.

“We’re not here to get rich, we’re here to enrich the communities around us and therefore we don’t have a lot of operational cash on hand,” said Anderson.

Knowing the industry is in need of assistance and support, venues are turning to two proposed legislative acts.

The RESTART act would provide federal relief based on lost revenue for several industries.

“The Save Our Stages Act is an industry specific act focused primarily on performing arts centers and live music independent venues across America-- 2,500 venues in all,” Anderson explained. “It’s really focused just on that industry and providing a financial bridge for those operations from the federal government.”

The Save Our Stages Act would provide forgivable grants.

The acts are supported by Senators Baldwin and Johnson, Representatives Kind and Gallagher, as well as others from across the state.

Both acts look to be passed with the next potential relief bill before Congress goes on break.

The industry has a financial benefit to the community with a recent Chicago study estimating for every dollar spent at a small venue, $12 are spent in their neighborhoods.

“People go and have drinks before they see a show,” McArdle said. “They go to dinner. They are spending out in the community.”

The Pablo Center is working to reschedule all 2020 fall events to 2021.

Both venues are hopeful to return to the stage starting in January.

To learn more about the Save Our Stages Act, click here

Copyright 2020 WEAU. All rights reserved.

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