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'This is not the end for us': State grants for live entertainment venues provide needed relief

Live entertainment venues receive state grants for COVID relief
Posted at 10:18 PM, Dec 04, 2020

GREEN BAY (NBC26) -- Following months of limited spectators or no crowds at all, several local live entertainment venues are getting much needed relief from financial losses caused by the pandemic.

Governor Tony Evers announced 96 live venues across the state will receive $15 million in COVID-19 Live Music and Entertainment Venue Grants through the CARES Act.

Some said this funding comes at just the right time.

“One-hundred percent of our revenue opportunities are currently gone," said Maria Van Laanen, president of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. "We are not able to generate any earned revenue through ticket sales, or concessions, or anything that happens when people come to our events.”

The P.A.C. received $362,287 through the state grant program, which will help recover financial losses the Center sustained since its closing in March.

Van Laanen said the money will be used to maintain and pay for building expenses, current virtual programs and to ensure the Center can bring staff back when the facility reopens.

“Live performances and the arts, we draw a lot of people into communities and generate a lot of spending," Van Laanen said. "So it’s a wonderful investment and a signal to the vitality that our organizations provide to our communities.”

PMI Entertainment, which manages the Meyer Theater and Resch Center, also applied for the state grant program. The organization was awarded $395,308.

“That’s a big shot in the arm for us," said Terry Charles, senior manager of corporate communications for PMI Entertainment. "I mean, it really buys us more time.”

Within the last month, the Resch Center has hosted a few Gamblers hockey games with limited crowds.

Let Me Be Frank Productions put on shows in the fall at Meyer Theater in front of a crowd that filled 25 percent of the room. Charles said the group recently started Christmas performances.

But Charles said the few events aren't nearly enough to sustain business on their own.

Since having to cuthalf its staff due to the pandemic, Charles said PMI Entertainment will primarily use the grant to keep a core group of employees on staff.

“We talk about all these essential things in the world, and I guess at face value entertainment and leisure activities aren’t essential. But we don’t look at it that way," Charles said. "It’s a very important part of life.”

Charles and Van Laanen said they're extremely grateful to the state of Wisconsin for providing some financial relief, but said the grant is only a stepping stone to their end goal.

Charles said he'd like to see the government bring back the Paycheck Protection Program, which helped many PMI Entertainment employees.

“Hopefully the federal government comes out with more relief for this industry, which has been decimated by this pandemic," Charles said.

Many continue the fight to push more relief for live entertainment venues through Congress, like the Save Our StagesAct.

“This is a great success for today but there’s a long road ahead of us," Van Laanen said.

Those eligible for the grants received up to $500,000 or 25 percent of ticket sales from 2019.