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SBA Money On The Way For Entertainment Businesses In Northeast Ohio

After a delayed start, federal dollars are now on the way to the local entertainment industry.

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced 44 Shuttered Venue Operators Grant applications have been approved in Ohio as of Monday, totalling more than $20 million.

One of the approved recipients is Cleveland live music producer Jim Wadsworth, known for his shows at Nighttown and the Lakeland Jazz Festival.

“About 10 days ago I got an email. At first I was like, ‘Wow is this legit?’ I’m kinda humbled, because I’m one of the first people that’s from Northeast Ohio that’s been approved,” Wadsworth said.

His business, Jim Wadsworth Productions, was granted $89,615. As a producer and promoter, Wadsworth said he was not as financially strapped by the pandemic as others.

“But I did feel a certain restlessness, a certain obligation to musicians and the community as a whole. I feel like I provide a service. Maybe not vital like food and water necessarily, but people need entertainment,” Wadsworth said.

Ohio grant amounts thus far range between $26,037 for the Empire Concert Club and Bar in Akron and $6,576,158 for Rush Concerts Limited, a Christian entertainment promoter out of Mechanicsburg, Ohio. 

Other Northeast Ohio grantees (and grants) include the Canton Palace Theatre ($307, 168), Jilly’s Music Room in Akron ($185,656) and the Happy Dog in Cleveland ($536,320).

Earlier this month, Sean Watterson, owner of the Happy Dog and Ohio Captain of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), raised the alarm about the slow speed of approving grant applications. Technical delays in the application process also frustrated applicants earlier in the year. 

Wadsworth said the grant money will keep him “in business indefinitely.” Meanwhile, he’s waiting to see if Nighttown reopens under new management before the end of the year. The Cleveland Heights venue sold in January

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