MERIDEN — The phone is finally ringing again at the Silver City Ballroom.
The event venue on the corner of Church and Colony streets will be hosting its first baby shower today since the pandemic forced its shutdown last March. Several other events are lined up for the next few weeks and people have been calling for showings.
“It will be nice to have people back in here again,” said Joseph Florio, who runs the Silver City Ballroom with a partner. “The partial reopening (last year) didn’t really help because people weren’t sure of capacity restrictions.”
The state’s business reopening and lifting of capacity restrictions set for May 19 has people shopping around for places to celebrate again. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection’s announcement on Thursday that masks were not needed among fully-vaccinated people was another boon for business. The indoor mask mandate remains in place until May 19, when it is left to the discretion of the business owner.
Prior to the pandemic, the ballroom was hosting concerts, weddings, showers and parties. During the pandemic, it opened and decorated the ballroom to allow artists to perform and live stream their concerts.
Florio is counting on a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant to help pay back rent to the landlord — the Meriden Housing Authority. The Small Business Administration opened the application portal two weeks ago and award letters are expected to go out within the next few days to priority one recipients
Priority One applicants that lost 90% or more of their revenue from April to December of 2020 are scheduled to receive funds of up to $10 million in the first 14 days of disbursement. Following that, priority two establishments that lost 70% or more of their revenue in the same time period will receive funds over the next 14 days. And last in line are businesses that lost 25% or more of their revenue in 2020, which will receive funds in the 14 days after the second round of funding closes, according to Billboard.com.
The grant program sets aside $16 billion, with entertainment considered one of the hardest hit industries of the pandemic. The money can be used for expenses such as payroll costs, rent, utilities and personal protective equipment.
Florio hopes the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant doesn’t go the way of the recent restaurant grant, also administered by the Small Business Administration, which ran out of money in a few days. Without the grant, he sees no way of continuing the business.
Florio received a $10,000 Payment Protection Program forgivable loan and an additional $5,000 from the city to help pay utilities, but the rent to the MHA is $50,000 in arrears. He’s grateful the MHA hasn’t hounded them for payment, and there is a moratorium on evictions.
“It’s a terrible situation for everybody,” said Neil Ivers, chairman of the MHA’s Board of Commissioners. “It was a situation where nobody could do anything about it. It’s good news they’re applying for the grant and maybe that will make us whole.”
The pandemic also slowed momentum for the MHA’s plans for a mixed use project that includes a black box theater on West Main Street.
“Who knows what theaters are going to look like after this?” Ivers said.