Renaissance Faire sues SBA over grant denial

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.
In a lawsuit, the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire says its revenue shrank 40% in 2020 (photo/shutterstock)

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


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