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Struggling St. Louis Cultural Organizations Inch Closer To Federal Relief Funds

Pat Hagin, a Managing Partner of The Pageant, discusses what is next for the venue in light of current low state-wide COVID-19 vaccination rates and shifting local mandates.
File photo/David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
Pat Hagin, managing partner of the Pageant in the Delmar Loop, says a newly created federal grant program will keep many performing venues from closing their doors for good.

`Some owners of live performance venues in the St. Louis region have circled April 8 on their calendars.

That’s when they can begin to apply for some of the $15 billion in relief funds Congress approved for the struggling arts sector in December as part of a $900 billion economic stimulus package.

Live performance venues were among the first businesses to close last spring when officials placed limits on public gatherings to help keep the coronavirus from spreading. They may be among the last to fully reopen, as capacity limits and social distancing requirements remain in place for the foreseeable future.

“There’s been a lot of damage anyway, especially some of the smaller revenues throughout the country,” said Bill Hagin, managing partner of St. Louis music clubs the Pageant and Delmar Hall. “But this will keep the industry from just, you know, devastation.”

Health regulations in St. Louis and St. Louis County allow for businesses to operate at 50% of their usual capacity, but for indoor venues, social-distancing requirements effectively lower that maximum.

The Small Business Administration will disperse the federal funds, known as Shuttered Venue Operators grants. Only organizations with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to apply. For the first two weeks after applications open, entities that lost 90% or more of their income in 2020 may request funds. Lawmakers set aside $2 billion for organizations with fewer than 50 full-time employees.

Owners of performance venues, museums, talent agencies and movie theaters are eligible to apply. That leaves out many people who earn their living in the performing arts sector, such as artists and freelance contractors including sound operators and stagehands.

Some workers in the industry are calling on Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to use money from direct funds to the cultural sector from the 2020 CARES Act and the $1.9 trillion stimulus package approved earlier this month to help those who work in cultural organizations.

“It’s a good time to make a little nudge toward the state of Missouri,” said St. Louis-based concert promoter Drew Jameson, founder of Jamo Presents. “There has been no entertainment, arts-focused dollars to help on the state level, which I think is crucial.”

Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @jeremydgoodwin

Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.