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Pa. Renaissance Faire sues after not receiving federal pandemic relief grant

The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire is suing the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) over its denial of $5.8 million in pandemic relief funds.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Editor's note: The above video is from Aug. 2021.

The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire is suing the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) over its denial of $5.8 million in pandemic relief funds, according to court documents. 

The lawsuit states that the agency did not give reason for its denial, and the Ren. Faire is asking that a federal judge in Philadelphia award them the money they believe they deserve. 

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program provided federal aid to live-event venues during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the program, entertainment venues, movie theaters, and event promotors received federal grant money to help stay in business during the nationwide shutdown.

The Renaissance Faire, located outside Manheim, asked for $5.8 million in aid, but received nothing, the lawsuit claims.  

This program was part of a larger bill signed by President Trump in Dec. 2020 which was established in order to aid live event operators, museums, and theaters, to name a few. The Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act, amended by the American Rescue Plan Act, "includes over $16 billion in grants to shuttered venues, to be administered by SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance," according to the Small Business Administration's website.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the Ren Faire,” the suit states. "The Ren Faire needs a SVOG award for precisely the reason Congress created the SVOG program: to help eligible live entertainment businesses like the Ren Faire recover from the major setbacks they have experienced because of the pandemic." 

The Shuttered Venue program is not accepting new applications, although the application portal remains open. 

According to the Small Business Administration's website, in order to be eligible for funding, applicants had to show a dip in earned revenue of at least 25% in at least one financial quarter in 2020, compared to the same quarter one year earlier.

In its lawsuit, the Renaissance Faire claims its 2020 revenue dropped 47% in the second quarter, 72% in the third quarter, and 40% in the fourth quarter, compared to the same span of time in 2019.

The Renaissance Faire claims it appealed the initial denial, explaining in detail "with copious supporting documentation" that it met the eligibility requirements. 

The appeal was denied, again without an explanation, the Renaissance Faire says in its lawsuit.

Since the Ren. Faire met the criteria, officials are wondering, quite frankly, where their money is. 

“A basic requirement of administrative law is that an agency provide the reasons for its decisions," the suit states. "However, the SBA gave no reason for denying the Ren. Faire’s application, nor did it provide any reason when it denied the Ren. Faire’s appeal."

Besides asking the judge to award them the money, the Ren. Faire is also asking the judge to: 

  • Declare the denial unlawful and set aside Defendants’ denial of the Ren. Faire’s SVOG award request. 
  • Preliminarily and permanently order Defendants to consider Ren. Faire’s application for a SVOG award consistent with applicable law and the evidence before the SBA. 
  • Preliminarily and permanently order Defendants to award in SVOG funds.
  • Preliminarily and permanently order Defendants to retain appropriations from the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act (Pub. L. No. 116-260 § 324) and/or the American Rescue Plan (Pub. L. No. 117-2 § 5005(b)) in an amount sufficient to fund Plaintiff’s SVOG initial grant awards. 
  • Award Plaintiffs their costs and reasonable attorney fees. 
  • Grant such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.  

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