A popular Lancaster County attraction has joined a growing throng of companies taking a federal agency to court after being denied grants designed to help live-event venues survive the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire filed a lawsuit in December claiming the U.S. Small Business Administration was “arbitrary and capricious” when it denied the company its request for roughly $5.8 million from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.
- Overseen by the SBA, the program showered billions of dollars on theaters, concert halls and museums, including many across Central Pennsylvania.
- But more than 4,500 applicants nationwide were denied, according to CNBC, which notes that some have been asking courts to review the SBA’s decision-making.
- The Renaissance Faire’s lawsuit was first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
What’s the argument: According to its lawsuit, the Renaissance Faire, a d/b/a for Mazza Vineyards Inc., showed that it met the criteria for a grant.
- After learning it had been denied, the company filed an administrative appeal. The appeal was rejected in November with no reason given, according to the lawsuit.
- “A basic requirement of administrative law is that an agency provide the reasons for
its decisions,” according to the lawsuit.
- An attorney for the company — Mark Bradshaw of law firm Stevens & Lee — declined to comment.
- An SBA spokesperson also declined to comment, citing agency policy on pending litigation.
Was help needed: The fair argued that its revenue plunged during the pandemic.
- Revenue was down 47% in the second quarter of 2020 and 72% in the third quarter, according to the lawsuit. The company was down 40% for 2020 as a whole compared to 2019.
- In normal years, the Renaissance Faire typically draws around 200,000 people over the course of 11 weekends from August through October.
- The venue also holds three festivals each year.
Who did get help: The biggest beneficiaries in Central PA were Lancaster County-based Sight & Sound Ministries and Clair Global, each of which received $10 million, the maximum amount available to be awarded, according to SBA data. Other major beneficiaries here include:
- American Music Theatre, also in Lancaster County: $7 million.
- The M.S. Hershey Foundation, an independent Hershey entity that runs Hershey Garden, the Hershey Theatre and The Hershey Story, a museum about the chocolate entrepreneur: $5.9 million.
- Fulton Theatre, Lancaster: $4.9 million.
- Gettysburg Foundation, which operates a museum, visitor center and other attractions at the Civil War battlefield: $4.3 million.
- Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Carlisle: $2.2 million
- Appell Center for the Performing Arts, York: $1.5 million
- Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, Harrisburg: $782,132
– By Joel Berg, editor, biznewsPA