It hasn’t been easy to run a business during the pandemic but purchasing a well-known historic restaurant and event venue just weeks before COVID-19 shutdowns is a new level of difficulty. That was the situation Noella Colandreo and Anthony Sanschagrin found themselves in when they purchased The Dickens on March 1.
Now, a measure of support has come their way. The Colorado Arts Relief Fund has awarded a $50,000 grant to The Dickens Opera House to support the venue in the wake of pandemic-related challenges. The grant was awarded to the event venue rather than the associated restaurant, Dickens 300 Prime.
“We’re really excited about it,” Colandreo said. “Because of our takeover date, we’re not eligible for a lot of other grants and loans, like the Economic Injury Disaster Loans that some entities used where businesses had to be in operation under the current owners by Jan. 31. While we didn’t qualify under those sources, at least we were able to get this one.”
The Colorado Arts Relief Fund was established last year by the Legislature to help arts and entertainment organizations affected by the pandemic. Grants are provided through two separate application processes, one for individuals and the other for organizations.
The fund is distributing “$7.5 million to arts, cultural and entertainment artists, crew members, and organizations,”according to its website. “Individuals are eligible for a flat award of $2,500, but awards to organizations are based on the percentage of their revenue lost based on their budget size.”
While the Dickens Opera House was the only Longmont grant recipient, 12 other Boulder County organizations also were funded including the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Boulder Ballet and Dairy Arts Center. A full list of recipients is available on the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade website.
Applying for the grant proved to be challenging at times, with a lot of writing compared to other application processes, Colandreo said. It also was competitive, with a lot of organizations in need of support.
“We were nervous about it,” Colandreo said. “We didn’t want to say anything wrong in the application that would make us ineligible for funding.”
Ultimately, Colandreo said she believes the Dickens received a grant because of its historic relevance, impact on the community and the fact that the venue appeals to a diverse audience.
The Dickens Opera House was notified about the award via email after grants were announced on Feb. 8. The newswas welcome at the end of an extremely stressful 11months but Colandreo’s response to the grant was simple, and perhaps, expected: “We felt fortunate,” she said. “It was a relief.”