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No carry-out concerts: local entertainment industry leaders lament COVID-19 trouble

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Emily Sullivan/WYPR
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Maryland’s arts and entertainment industry leaders told state Comptroller Peter Franchot Tuesday they took a financial beating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We saw a total economic loss of about $134 million, a loss of attendance of 15.2 million people, and a drop in visitor spending of $79.4 million,” said Steven Skerritt-Davis, the Executive Director of the Maryland State Arts Council.

Skerritt-Davis and other speakers said they were frustrated with the process of obtaining grant funding. They complained of a lack of a centralized directory of what grants are available, the need to jump through many hoops to apply and actually procure grant funding, and extremely long wait times.

“The lights went out. The doors were locked. Thousands of layoffs occurred and spending in Maryland in the entertainment business was completely shut down,” said Ted Mankin, Senior Vice President of Booking for Live Nation and co-founder of MEIA, the Maryland Entertainment Industry Association.

Comptroller Franchot expressed concern over these assertions.

“It’s frustrating to me to know there is federal and state money in checking accounts that the state controls, and we are simply sitting on it,” he said.

Jean Parker, the general manager of Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, and the other co-founder of MEIA, described a perfect storm of difficulties that are only getting more complicated with the passage of time.

Crowds, she said, are beginning to return, but now there is a shortage of workers at her venue.

“We could not simply pivot and do carry out concerts. Our industry was the first to close and the very last to reopen. There is no template for surviving a pandemic,” she said.