Small businesses that support performance venues still facing ruin due to pandemic

The pandemic forced the curtains to close on millions of live concerts and shows across the U.S. and while they're slowly coming back, many businesses that support those venues are still hurting.

The federal government offered PPP loans and other financial assistance, but many small businesses that depend on the live event industry didn't qualify for anything. They are now pleading for help before they lose everything.

Star in Brooklyn Park depends on trade shows, building signs and displays to help market various companies. But when the pandemic hit, trade shows disappeared and so did about half their business. Other, though, have lost everything.

"In our industry, we are losing three to five small businesses every week," said Star CEO Mark Johnson. "We don’t expect a full comeback until Q1 or Q2 of next year. Unfortunately, I’ve had two business owners that I know commit suicide."

Wednesday, several small business owners who depend on live events shared heartbreaking stories of financial ruin and mental anguish.

"I did not qualify for PPP because of the structure of my business," said professional speaker Shawna Suckow. "I laid off my two assistants. One has come back part time because I thought, ‘Oh things are finally coming back,’ but I will need to lay her off probably next month and she is a single mom with two kids."

Representatives Angie Craig and Dean Phillips held a listening session for the business owners. They’re both on the small business committee for the House and say they’ll work together to find solutions.

"Whether it’s implementing a better rollout or providing SBA with the resources to fix some of the rollout issues that we’ve seen in programs like the shuttered venues operator grants program," said Rep. Craig.
"If a program doesn’t exist we craft it," added Rep. Phillips. "We work on a bipartisan basis regularly and that’s our job."

While many of these businesses are barely hanging on, they all still have hope and a strong desire to get back in business. But, to do that they say they desperately need help.

Craig and Phillips say they’ll head back to Washington and get to work to try and help the live event industry before it’s too late.