For Chicago music venues struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, a return to normalcy is desperately sought, but somewhat thwarted by a recent federal aid rollout flub.
Under Illinois’ current Phase 4 guidelines, venues holding 200 or more people must stay at 50-percent or 50-person occupancy – whichever is less. For smaller venues holding less than 200 people that limit is set to 25-percent or 25-person occupancy.
Adding stress to an already nerve-wracking situation for venue owners, a $16 billion Small Business Administration federal grant to assist performance venues and museums suffered technical difficulties in its online application process.
The digital rollout of the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant program to assist venues with payroll, rent and other financial obligations is delayed nearly two weeks after its planned launch due to an onslaught of demand and applications.
Robert Gomez, owner of Chicago venues Subterranean and Beat Kitchen, said the federal help is key to keep his two music spaces afloat.
“It’s absolutely essential,” Gomez said. “I have taken out so many loans and have postponed loan payments — kicking the can down the road as dramatically as possible out of necessity – just so I don’t drain my cash. I need money to reopen.”
An SBA representative told the Wall Street Journal the agency is working to reopen the application process.