Live Hawaii venues struggling to survive will be able to apply for federal aid on April 8


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Local live venues like theaters will be getting some much-needed aid.

$16 billion worth of federal grants was just made available by the Small Business Administration and businesses will be able to start applying on Thursday, April 8.

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Hawaii Theatre president & CEO Gregory Dunn said, performances — even the digital ones — like the one the Pacific Academy of the Performing Arts held on Friday, March 19, are an important reason why the Hawaii Theatre needs to survive.

“It’s these types of experiences that help build the youth so that they understand, you know, the importance of the performing arts.”

Gregory Dunn, Hawaii Theatre President & CEO

The Hawaii Theatre has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars over the span of the pandemic. It is now hoping to receive $1.2 million from the grant to stay afloat.

“The funds are going to be critical for us as we look toward reopening in September or October of this year,” said Dunn.

Dunn said, the additional funding will help pay for past bills, additional sanitation equipment and to help bring in shows.

“We have many of our local artists that have kokua us for the past few months doing free livestreams that we ve been able to keep the lights on with, but we’d like to pay the artists what they’re worth to get them to play at the theatre and the funds will help us do that,” said Dunn.

He said, it is also key in bringing back staff.

“We had originally laid off 48 staff people when we went dark in April, may so we’ll have to hire some of those people back get the box office ramped back up,” said Dunn.

Diamond Head Theatre said it also needs the money to bring back staff.

“Right now realistically we’re operating at less than 50%. I mean our budget has been cut completely in half,” said Deena Dray, Diamond Head Theatre executive director. “The money initially will be hopefully used to perhaps add back staff. We’ve cut back two and a half positions here.”

Dray said, she is unsure of how much money they qualify for at this point.
Diamond Head Theatre has some money reserved but they will need it to build a new theatre — a plan that was already in the books.

“Those reserves might be needed for the new theater costs. If there are costs that we haven’t budgeted for. So, we’re in a precarious position now,” said Dray.

These venues say they are prepared if they are denied funding and have backup plans in place, but any additional money will help keep them alive in the long run.

Every little bit helps,” said Dunn. “We still need your support because the federal funding that was released and announced — it’s not a sure thing — so it’s like something that we need everyone’s support in order to keep the theater going for the future.”

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