TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — COVID closed some of the music and theater spots that helped define Tucson’s personality. Now after some delays by technical problems a program to help closed venues survive is taking applications. Senator Mark Kelly was in town talking about the arts role and how to help them
Senator Mark Kelly and his wife former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords viewed a photo exhibit that remembers years of great shows at the Rialto Theater---before the pandemic cleared the stage, cut the lights and sent the crowds home.
Now the Rialto is one of easily thousands of venues applying for grants through the shuttered venue program which Kelly helped sponsor.
Restaurants had a hard enough time surviving on reduced business. Kelly says places like the Rialto had to shut down entirely.
“This place and the Fox Theater down the street is iconic and I think our community wouldn't be not the same if we let these businesses. And these theatres go away.”
There was so much demand for this help nationwide that the application website crashed under the load. Kelly says it’s operating again and taking applications for a share of more than 16 billion dollars in Federal aid for live performance venues.
Even with that much money there’s a danger the cash will run out before every venue that needs help will get it.
He says, I've got folks in our office, I can help them go through this process with the Small Business Administration. And we do that, not only for the shuttered venues, act but also for PPP, and I've been able to help small businesses get the funding that they're entitled to to make sure that they have a future here in our community.”
Venue operators say saving their theaters saves more than culture. They say it’s smart economics that preserves jobs and helps support other businesses like restaurants and hotels that serve people the theaters attract.