WESTFIELD – The new sector-specific grant program being offered by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) for businesses hardest hit by the COVID-19 shutdowns specifically targets indoor entertainment establishments and performing arts venues as well as event-related businesses such as photography and videography studors, florists, limo services, event planning companies and rentals, and performers.
Jay Pagluica, owner of JP Lighting and Sounds and co-owner of Gaslight Entertainment, which launched in 2019, said he has heard about the new grant program. “The local Chamber of Commerce has been kind enough to let our small businesses know this was there,” he said, adding, “I would love to take advantage of it, but there are businesses that can use it better than I.”
Pagluica said Gaslight Entertainment had been started as a sideline to do something to bring entertainment to the community.
“Why would we take away from somebody’s real job? I have so many friends that have been out of business since last March, that (entertainment) was their real job – those are the guys that really need that grant,” he said.
Pagluica said the word has been out in the industry and in industry trade magazines, not only Massachusetts grants, but opportunities that have been offered by the federal government as well. “I’m sure that they are reaching out to their money people to make sure they’re able to take advantage of this,” he said.
Overall, Pagluica that the entertainment and performance industry has been among the hardest hit during the pandemic. “It’s unfortunate that they don’t seem to be talked about much. We’ve all drawn back into our homes and our local businesses. Broadway gets more press, but [not] local entertainers and local bands. I talked to one, who said, ‘we’ve got nothing’ – [the same for] a lot of small bands and local entertainers,” he said.
Pagluica said for a lot of performers and musicians whose whole world is in the entertainment sector, they may normally take on jobs in restaurants or stores during slow times. Now, he said, their back-up plan isn’t working. He also said they’re not looking for loans, because they don’t need to go into more debt, which is why he thinks the grants are a great program.
Looking forward, Pagluica said the entertainment industry is looking at losing most of 2021. He said vaccines for the general public will be available from April to June, and then it will be a wait until the graph on the nightly news goes down, probably by the end of the summer. After that come the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, with hopefully no spikes. He said it will be 2022 before small theatres, olympic theatres and outdoor concerts get going again.
Through JP LIghting and Sounds, Pagluica said he is working with a few people trying to get drive-in concerts in the local area happening this summer. “We want to bring good local bands in as well as some high end bands,” he said. His concern is the cost of bringing a stage in, lighting, and PA to make it happen, and the amount they can charge. “It’s not going to be a huge expensive ticket if you charge by the carload.”
Pagluica said he checked out Tupelo Music Hall in New Hampshire, where the owner spent some money right up front to build a little stage outside and use the parking lot. He said they’re doing well, using every other space and allowing people to use the space next to their cars to sit outside. “If you leave that space, wear a mask. That’s probably the model we’ll use,” he said, adding that JP Lighting & Sounds would be a vendor for the promoter.
“We’re pretty sure there’s a hunger for that. Bring me some music in, something, anything,” he said.
As for Gaslight Entertainment, they were set up to produce shows in small venues like the Women’s Club, and are on hiatus. “When we started GaslIght just about a year ago, our first shows were just getting to take off. By March, the excitement was there, the interest was there, we were starting to fill the room. It was a shame, because we had some great entertainment lined up,” he said.
Pagluica said he has recorded some shows with the Westfield High School chorus, but it’s not the same as doing it with a live audience.
“What’s happened has been terrible, but the wonderful thing about people has been they adapt. We’ve been doing that in the music industry; but from someone that produces the show, runs the lighting, the sound, there’s something about that wild applause at the end of the show that you can’t replace,” Pagluica said.