Rock Reborn: Tucson’s downtown theaters receive federal grants and are set to reopen with lots of live music

Christina Duran

Downtown's Rialto and Fox theaters have landed major grants from the federal government's relief programs and will soon be reopening with a slew of shows on the horizon. The Fox received $1,448,389 Shuttered Venue Operator's Grant from the Small Business Administration's program.

"Having just revealed our 2021-2022 Return to the Fox season of 50+ shows, this comes at a time when long-awaited relief is much needed," said Bonnie Schock, Fox Tucson Theatre executive director. "With our first live performance since March of 2020 just a few months away, these funds allow us to move forward boldly toward full recovery and a triumphant return to the Fox."

Congressman Raul Grijalva cheered the news.

"Live venues are an integral part of Tucson's vibrant culture and economy, and I'm pleased SBA has finally awarded the Fox Theatre an SVOG grant," Grijalva said in a prepared statement. "The need for this funding has been clear for some time, and that's why I pushed so hard for this program from the beginning. I am happy to see the results coming to fruition and our local businesses getting the aid they need and deserve. With the funding Congress provided, they can now move forward to hire, book talent, begin marketing, and ultimately come back into operation stronger than before. Our small venues have waited long enough for relief, and I will continue fighting for any resources they need to ensure a full economic recovery from the pandemic."

The Rialto has also been approved for a grant, although Rialto Theater Executive Director Cathy Rivers declined to reveal the precise amount. Rivers said the Rialto had received "enough to pay back our creditors, hire staff, fix stuff and open the Theatre."

The grants come after an initial disastrous rollout of the program in April, when a rush to submit applications from venue operators crashed the online system. The SBA reported that as of July 12, the agency had awarded 6,610 grants worth a total of $5 billion, with an average grant of $758,000. A total of $3.3 billion had been disbursed. In Arizona, the SBA had awarded just under $118 million in grants.

Venues were eligible for grants based on 45% of the organization's 2019 earned revenues and the monies can be used for business expenses dating back to March 2020 and to cover expenses through the end of this year.

Both the Fox and the Rialto have already begun booking shows for the year ahead.

The Fox schedule includes The Mavericks on Aug. 19, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on Sept. 11, Chris Issak on Sept. 25, Rickie Lee Jones on Sept. 26, Pat Metheny with James Francies & Joe Dyson on Oct. 5, Asleep at the Wheel on Oct. 8, Amy Grant on Oct. 24, Paula Poundstone on Oct. 28, Atlanta Rhythm Section and Firefall on Nov. 5, Tommy Emmanuel on Nov. 6 and Boney James on Nov. 7.

The Rialto will showcase an amateur kickboxing event, Rise of the Prospects, with local fighters on July 31, before hosting an 18+ DJ-based Electric Feels dance party on Friday, Aug. 6, and a Gasolina Reggaeton Dance Party on Saturday, Aug. 7. Live music returns with Andrew Schulz on Wednesday, Aug. 18, followed by Amigo the Devil on Friday, Aug. 20. On Saturday, Aug. 21, the Rialto will host Dia de las Luchas, a wrestling extravaganza that will also feature Los Nawdy Dogs. Neko Case will perform on Monday, Aug. 23; the Flaming Lips are scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 24; Old Blind Dogs play on Friday, Sept. 4; Gogol Bordello returns on Saturday Sept. 4; Modest Mouse comes to town on Monday, Sept. 20; Jack Russell's Great White is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 24; and hometown favorite Calexico will perform on Saturday, Sept. 25.

The Rialto will also reopen its sister venue, 191 Toole, with performances scheduled by the likes of Ramirez (Aug. 3), Your Money's Worth (Aug. 7), Miss Olivia and the Interlopers (Aug. 14), Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears (Aug. 20), Sian (Aug. 21), Nanpa Básico (Aug. 27) and the Residents (Sept. 14).

For more information on these shows and more, visit rialtotheatre.com and foxtucson.com.

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