Birmingham City Council

Birmingham Seeks Dollars for Its Entertainment Venues

Sloss Landmark Furnaces is one of five venues for which Birmingham will apply for federal grants. (Source: Sloss Landmark Furnaces)

Birmingham will apply for federal relief for five city-owned concert spaces and museums that lost revenue during the pandemic.

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, established last year by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act, offers funding for COVID-impacted entities, public or private, including live venues, movie theaters, museums and live performing arts organizations.

The city will seek SVOG funding for Boutwell Auditorium, Sloss Historic Landmark Furnace, the Southern Museum of Flight, Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Arlington Historic House. These entities were chosen based on revenue-generating capability, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Kelvin Datcher told councilors during a committee meeting Monday.

“Really, what we based it upon, and quite frankly it sounds bad — hopefully, no one else is offended by it — but the people who had the most actual grant opportunity dollars,” he said. SVOG grants can provide up to 45% of the revenue generated by a venue in 2019, and since the city was limited to five submissions, it chose its highest earners.

City-owned venues operated by other governing bodies had to apply separately. “We own Vulcan, we own the Museum of Art, we own the Zoo, but those entities are operated outside of the city,” Datcher said. “We worked with those operating authorities to apply for those dollars if they were eligible.”

Datcher said his office had also been in touch with private venues to make sure they apply. “Even though we’re not in control of the dollars, we want people to be looking out for these dollars,” he said.

The SVOG grant is separate from the American Rescue Plan money the city received earlier this month, and Datcher told councilors to expect more federal funding to become available, meaning that organizations not included in this round of applications may soon get the opportunity for relief.

“There are going to be a number of grant opportunities that come really, superfast,” he said. “There is a rushed window in terms of us getting our stuff in to be eligible. … These things are opening and closing very fast.”