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Amusement parks, live music venues need financial help to survive, experts say

Ryan D'Amico, owner of Laser Bounce Family Fun

Ryan D'Amico, owner of Laser Bounce Family Fun Center in Levittown, says of the six-month shutdown: "It's been stressful every day."  Credit: Corey Sipkin

Businesses that have yet to be allowed to open under COVID-19 restrictions are in dire need of guidance and additional financial help if they are to survive the economic toll of the pandemic, a panel of experts said Tuesday during a Newsday Live event that was co-sponsored by the Long Island Association business group.

Movie theaters, amusement centers, and live theater and music venues are among the industries still affected by state shutdowns and, with no timeline for reopening, no revenue, and high overhead costs, many are concerned they’ll be shut down for good, according to Rev. Moose, executive director of the National Independent Venue Association.

"We talk about the second wave, but I think the second wave is going to come — removing the health aspect from it — from a business perspective," said Rev. Moose, who helped found NIVA six months ago in an effort to preserve independent music venues on the brink of closure."The second wave is going to be looking at your books in 2021 and realizing how much debt you have, realizing what it would take to potentially get out of that debt."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said last week that New York's around 1% infection rate is the "limit" to where the state wants to be, and he doesn't want "higher risk" business to raise that number. There are currently no guidelines or timetables for when these businesses may open.

And though many small businesses took advantage of PPP loans, the longer the closures continue the less that money will be able to sustain them, said Steven Gentile, owner of Adventureland. When they got their loan, which was over $500,000,they, like other places that are still closed, used it as if they would be allowed to reopen with Phase 4, Gentile said. When that didn’t materialize, businesses were put in a tough spot. In July, the U.S. Treasury Department said around 650,000 small businesses and nonprofits received the loan.

"That money did not benefit our industries," Gentile said, referring to the amusement and live venue industries, "because we didn’t have the guidance of when we would be able to move forward, so we all used that PPP money and it backfired."

Gentile believes that, for now, Adventureland may be able to survive, but knowledge that they would be closed this long would have been useful months ago.

"If we would have known when we would have been able to open at some point or not open, we would have used it accordingly," he said. "We weren’t able to take advantage of it in the proper way because of the lack of guidance, direction and communication."

Ryan D’Amico, owner of Laser Bounce — Family Fun Centers in Levittown and Glendale, said that while he believes his business will recover, the financial impact has been devastating.

He said the government needed to step in to provide financial help if it wanted these businesses to survive. Loans won’t be enough, Rev. Moose said, because businesses are so deep underwater that they may not be able to pay them back. For his industry, he’s hoping the federal government will pass the "Save Our Stages" Act, a $10 billion bill that would allow live venues to receive up to $12 million each in grant money. The amusement industry is hoping for a financial reprieve as well.

"We need this money more than ever," D’Amico said, adding its been frustrating to see amusement centers in nearby states open up, and casinos open in New York.

"The [infection rate] numbers are staying at 1%," D’Amico said. "Give us that opportunity to open, or at least tell me when I can open, or what the guidelines are for us to open."

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