Friday, May 7, 2021
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz) visited the Rialto Theatre this week to highlight federal funding designed to get local music venues open again.
The federal government allocated more than $16.2 billion to the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant for live venues, live performing arts organizations, museums and movie theatres, as well as live venue promoters, theatrical producers and talent representatives.
But when the Small Business Administration opened the portal for the first-come, first-serve program on April 8, the demand crashed the system. Two weeks later, Kelly and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz) joined many of their Democratic colleagues to send a letter to SBA urging them to reopen the application portal before “more independent businesses are forced to shutter permanently or file for bankruptcy.” SBA announced it would reopen the portal on April 24 and the Rialto Theatre was one of the venues that applied for funding.
“We’ve got 550,000 small businesses in the state of Arizona, many of which have been closed for a long period of time, through no fault of their own. Venues like the Rialto are a lot different than a restaurant. Restaurants, many of them, are open and in business, reduced capacity, but they can generate some revenue,” Kelly said. “A Tucson icon like the Rialto or the Fox Theatre down the street or the Van Buren in Phoenix, I mean so many of these places have been closed for over a year now, and these are valuable small businesses. So the purpose of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant is to make sure that these businesses can get open and provide these good jobs that hundreds of thousands of Arizonans depend upon.”
The Rialto Theatre, like other venues, closed in March 2020 and had to cancel shows and events. Rialto Operations Manager Mark Martinez said they need the help as they have gone a year without any income, but continue to pay a mortgage and also have staff waiting to reopen.
With the venue closed, Martinez said they had to let go of more than 100 full- and part-time staff members.