Music venues within the Pittsburgh space, theaters hindered by issues with the Small Enterprise Administration web site

Local music venues are facing another closure.

The Small Business Association website where venues are supposed to apply for money is not working. The glitch keeps up federal government money for venues and creates frustration.

The Save Our Stages Act was passed under a Covid-19 Relief Act in December to help fund local venues. The law resulted in grants for closed venue operators to be applied for on April 8th.

“They had big technical problems and they took it down and kept quiet on the radio about when it would be available again,” said Brian Drusky, owner of Drusky Entertainment, a Pittsburgh-based concert promoter, via email. “Not a single application was made.”

A message appears on the US Small Business Administration website identifying the technical problem. Drusky, who along with Drusky’s marketing manager Adam Valen of the South Side PA district captain of the National Independent Venue Association, has corresponded with the Small Business Association.

“They have tried to get answers but there are no answers other than that they are working on it and they will let everyone know exactly when to apply,” Drusky said.

#SVOG UPDATE: Over the next few days, our tech team and vendors will continue to focus on testing the application portal for Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. it won’t reopen this weekend. We want to reopen the portal by the end of next week.

– SBA (@SBAgov) April 16, 2021

Drusky said he had received many calls, texts and emails expressing panic. He said some venues rely on the money to pay bills.

They didn’t say too many people tried to sign up at the same time, but Drusky said that as far as he knows it was over 14,000 people at one point.

“Though a lot, that’s hardly too many people in the grand scheme of things,” said Drusky. “You could apply on the portal, but you could not upload any of your documents. These venues are a must see not just here but across the country. We can’t understand why it takes so long for the money to get to people who really need it to survive. “

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Miss Freddye will perform at the Moondogs Pub in Blawnox on Sunday February 25th, 2018.

Ron Esser, nicknamed “Moondog”, owns Moondog’s Pub and Starlite Lounge in Blawnox. The Starlite will be on display on May 14th at the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”. He said he had someone overseeing the Small Business Administration website, but that person failed to get through.

“I’m not worried about myself,” said Esser of Frazer. “I’ve been here for a while, but I’m worried about everyone else. How long do you expect people to hold out? I do not get it. “

Esser owns his buildings, but there are clubs that have been paying rent for more than a year even though they haven’t been open, he said. And everyone has to pay ancillary costs, even if they own the building.

This recent challenge to get money is another obstacle, Esser said. He has no plans to open Moondog’s until October. He plans to start playing music in the pavilion of the Pittsburgh Shrine Center in Harmar for 20 weeks beginning June 3, starting June 3.

“After all, you have to jump off a sinking ship,” said Esser, who was helped by some through a Save Moondogs event in March that raised more than $ 55,000.

“It’s frustrating to say the least,” said Drusky. “Most of them just wait at this point. The level of panic when the program didn’t open was immense which really showed how many venues are dependent on this funding. “

The $ 16 billion had been ready for distribution for months, said Drusky.

“We have all waited patiently for the portal to open,” said Drusky. “It’s like they sent the lifebuoy, but we find that it got popped. Our ship is sinking at an alarming rate. “


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The stage area at the Mr. Smalls Theater in Millvale.

The outage hurts the Mr. Smalls Theater in Millvale.

Liz Berlin, co-owner of Mr. Smalls, said they are doing their best to remain optimistic.

She said in a previous Tribune review story that the venue was forced to borrow a catastrophe loan for the economic sector when the pandemic hit. The monthly expenses are $ 10,000 to $ 12,000.

The delay adds to the state of uncertainty at the venue, Berin said in an email. She said with the loss of income for more than a year she had used up all of her resources and the business was in debt. It is difficult to have to wait longer to see if your club is an option as there are no guarantees, she said. Supporters can help Mr. Smalls here.

Last fall, the Rex Theater, one of the most popular rock clubs in Pittsburgh, closed for good. Like many independent venues in the US, the South Side stage fell silent in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic shut the live music industry without warning. It’s not the only one. Brillobox, Howlers and Mixtape in Bloomfield and Hambones in Lawrenceville, which have also closed their doors permanently.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the live music scene hard across the country. Live music performances have all but ceased and the industry is still swaying from the effects.

Berlin said owning the building was the only reason they could survive.

“While the Shuttered Venues Operators seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, this tunnel is getting longer like a bad dream and the end doesn’t feel like a given,” she said. “(Small Business Administration) tweeted that they hope the portal can reopen by the end of next week, it can’t come soon enough. We’re vaping here at Mr. Smalls. “

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a contributor to the Tribune Review. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062,, or on Twitter.

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