Tupelo

People sit by their cars as they watch Tim Theriault perform at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, Saturday, in the first drive-in concert there since the coronavirus outbreak.  

Live venues across New Hampshire have lined up in hopes of getting grants to stay open.

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application process through the Small Business Administration went live Monday afternoon.

The launch came after the system crashed earlier this month leaving many frustrated as they struggle to pay rent and other expenses.

“People couldn’t even get into it,” said Scott Hayward, owner of Tupelo Music Hall in Derry. “If you got into it you didn’t get very far. It just crashed.”

Live venues, live performing arts organizations, museums, movie theaters, promoters, theatrical producers and talent representatives all qualify for the relief. More than $16 billion in grants will be made available for venues nationwide.

The money will be given out in tiers, with the first 14 days being set aside for entities that lost 90% of business, the second 14 days for those that lost 70%, and then those that suffered a 25% loss.

Hayward said he is in the second tier, but filed his application Monday anyway.

“Everybody is hoping they got in early enough,” he said.

Unlike the Paycheck Protection Program, more money can be used for expenses such as rent, scheduled debt payments and payments to independent contractors.

“It means a lot of venues won’t have to go out of business,” Hayward said. “It allows them to stay afloat until they get back open.”

Many venues across the state also got grant money handed out by the state.

The Press Room, which has multiple levels of small performance areas in Portsmouth, has remained closed since March of last year. The business will apply for the grant, said Tristan Law, general manager.

Most of the staff — 20 or 30 people — were laid off. The capacity of the main venue is 150, which has made it difficult to open with a reduced crowd.

“Margins are so slim in the music business,” Law said. “If you are not operating at your full capacity, it is hard for anyone.”

The restaurant will open in the next week with a new outdoor patio. No music acts are booked yet. Several musicians might stop by and busk on the sidewalk.

“We are still under capacity restrictions,” Law said. “We are hoping to reopen and bring back live music, but who knows when we’ll be able to do that as a full capacity thing … you want to run out and open and get back to it, but you want to be safe and not be part of a fourth wave of COVID.”

The grant could help the business host reduced capacity shows and still pay musicians the full rate.

The Flying Monkey in Plymouth has also remained mostly closed besides a few comedy acts and movies. The venue fits 450 people in the historic Plymouth Theater.

General Manager Brooks Bartlett said they also plan to apply for the grant. The first music show is scheduled to be Panorama, a Cars tribute band from Boston, on May 22. Groups will need to be seated six feet a part unless the restrictions are lifted.

“The bands want to play. People are dying to come out,” he said. “We deal with guests on the phone every day and there is a lot of frustration that life hasn’t gone back to normal yet.”

Many national tours are sidelined right now so the venue will focus on regional guests. Bartlett hopes some will return by summer.

“It is all about consumer confidence,” Bartlett said. “If they’re confident to come then we will have music and make things happen. We need everyone to be safe and to feel safe.”

Tupelo will offer outdoor drive-in shows this summer, but Hayward hopes to be back indoors in the fall.

“We just have to figure out a way to get to next summer,” he said. “I think next summer we’ll be back to normal.”

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