MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – Entertainment venues were among the first to close their doors due to the pandemic and the last to reopen fully, but thanks to federal government support, many are aiming for a comeback this year.

The Small Business Administration has facilitated the distribution of funds from the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant (SVOG) program. To date, 85 scholarships have been awarded in Wisconsin with a total volume of around 86 million US dollars.

Performing arts executives in Milwaukee said people long to return to the shows at the venues.

“There are very few things that are as meaningful as attending a performance like in a place like this, which is so beautiful and brings people together in a way that we missed tremendously during Covid,” said Mark Niehaus, President and Executive Director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, across from CBS 58 inside the Bradley Symphony Center on Wisconsin Avenue.

The nonprofit will receive approximately $ 1.7 million from SVOG. Niehaus said the money will help, but it won’t erase all of the financial impact of the pandemic.

“It makes a difference to us, but it doesn’t solve the problem for us,” said Niehaus.

The Marcus Performing Arts Center will receive approximately $ 6.5 million from the scholarship. They told CBS 58 that the funds will be very helpful in preparing for the return of live performances and audiences later this year.

“It will really help us openly reopening this fall so we can recruit staff and bring shows back to the Marcus Center,” said President and CEO Kendra Whitlock Ingram in an interview.

The Pabst Theater Group and its foundation will receive a total of approximately $ 10.8 million. Its CEO, Gary Witt, led a national effort through the National Independent Venue Association to raise pandemic funding for entertainment venues.

“It was a long way to actually distribute the money, but it was worth it,” Witt told CBS 58.

While Witt says the grants have made a big impact, many other small institutions are still waiting for their applications to be approved, which Witt is pushing for.

“We won’t rest until all of these companies are funded because that’s how we started,” said Witt.

For more information about the recipients in Wisconsin, see Here.