The Paramount Theater has been closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic.
SEATTLE – The Seattle Theater Group says it is poised to reopen three venues, thanks in part to a federal aid program.
“It’s lifesaving, no question about it,” said STG Executive Director Josh LaBelle as he sat on the balcony of the venerable Paramount Theater.
The Paramount Theater has been closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic that abruptly brought all areas of life to a standstill.
“80 percent of our employees have been on leave, laid off, it’s terrible,” said LaBelle. “I hope the general public comes back.”
STG replaced the HVAC system before the crisis, but has since installed new equipment in the Moore and Neptune theaters. According to LaBelle, the group will now also use cashless systems and mobile ticketing.
But STG didn’t really have a solid future base until the Small Business Administration’s recent announcement that it was granting STG millions under the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program. SVOG came into force in December 2020 but has been slow to implement. Up to that point, the SBA says eleven Washington venues received just over $ 11 million.
Senator Maria Cantwell issued a statement this week urging the SBA to speed up the process to help the small venues that are counting on the check. LaBelle says the check has still not been received while being notified of the grant.
Still, they are moving forward with their plans, saying the money will make up 12-15% of the operating budget and will allow them to reinstate any of their leave or laid-off employees.
The first Neptune show is scheduled for July 10th. The Black Pumas will play on August 21st with Mt. Joy for the moors scheduled for August 28th.
“It’s tough, I don’t want to gloss over it, it’s tough,” LaBelle said of the reopening. “I think there will be venues waiting until December or January to open again.”