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The Paramount, Tilles Center among LI venues winning $50 million in COVID aid

Among Long Island venues, The Paramount in Huntington

Among Long Island venues, The Paramount in Huntington received the most funding in the first round: $7 million. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

The Paramount, John W. Engeman Theater and Tilles Center are among nearly 90 local entertainment venues to win $50.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief grants, according to a Newsday analysis.

The Paramount, on New York Avenue in Huntington village, secured $7 million, the largest Long Island grant from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.

The SVOG was established to help concert halls, playhouses, independent movie theaters and producers of live entertainment that were shut down for months to slow the coronavirus' spread. The program was funded with $16 billion by Congress and then-President Donald Trump in December 2020.

Besides the Paramount, large grants were received by Northport's Engeman, $2.6 million; Tilles, a performing arts center on Long Island University's Brookville campus, $2.3 million; Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, $2.1 million, and the Argyle Theatre in Babylon village, $1.7 million, according to the analysis of data from the U.S. Small Business Administration, which runs the SVOG.

"This grant is the single most vital component to the survival of our theater," said Dylan Perlman, who owns and manages the Argyle with his father Mark. He said the theater took in less than 1% of its usual revenue in the past 18 months "but we've been able to cover our bills because of this program."

The Argyle, like most venues in Nassau and Suffolk counties, was closed for more than a year. The venues have used the SVOG funding to pay employee wages, rent and mortgage payments, utility bills, state and local taxes, insurance and production costs, executives said on Tuesday.

At the Gateway, executive artistic director Paul Allan called the SVOG "a blessing" but said "it's not a windfall. We still need help. Ticket sales are only 10% to 20% of what they were before the pandemic," he said.

Nationwide, $9 billion in SVOG funding had been awarded to 11,321 venues as of Aug. 23.

New York State received the largest share: $1.4 billion for 1,297 venues, with the bulk of the money going to New York City venues. Long Island accounted for just 4% of the funding statewide.

Other local venues winning grants of more than $1 million include The Space in Westbury and Stephen Talkhouse bar in Amagansett, according to the Newsday analysis.

With money remaining in the program, SBA is now inviting recipients of first-round SVOG funding to apply for a second grant.

To be eligible, the venue must show at least a 70% loss in revenue for the January-March period compared with revenue for the same period in 2019. The second grant may be up to 50% of the first, with the combined total not to exceed $10 million.

"These supplemental grants will go to the hardest-hit Shuttered Venue Operators Grant awardees not only on Long Island but across the country to ensure they can get back on their feet," said Matt Coleman, a spokesman for SBA's Region II, which includes New York State.

The agency is no longer accepting applications for first-round grants.

Venues that receive a second SVOG will have additional time to use the money. It can be used to pay expenses accrued through June 30, 2022.

More information may be found at sba.gov/svog.

Northport's Engeman Theater has applied for the second grant, said co-owner and managing director Kevin O'Neill, adding revenue was down 90% to 95% in the January-March period compared with the same time in 2019. "Fortunately, we've been able to keep our 16-person management team off unemployment, to pay everyone," he said.

O'Neill and Tilles executive director Bill Biddle both said Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) helped them through the SVOG process.

Suozzi and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the majority leader, "were very instrumental in making this program happen," Biddle said. "So many venues would have never reopened without [the] SVOG — including Tilles Center."

Suozzi said, "These businesses were crushed through no fault of their own because of a dreaded disease. We had to save them."

LI venues that received the most aid

  • The Paramount, Huntington village, $7 million
  • John W. Engeman Theater, Northport, $2.6 million
  • Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU, Brookville, $2.3 million
  • Gateway Playhouse, Bellport, $2.1 million
  • The Argyle Theatre, Babylon village, $1.7 million

SOURCE: Newsday analysis of U.S. Small Business Administration data

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