The Spotlight Lounge To Close Its Doors Unless Small Business Loan Comes Through
The Spotlight Lounge, which opened in September of 2021, may be on the verge of shutting its doors for good. That's if they don't receive a loan from the Small Business Association; one they applied for back in October of 2021.
"We've been battling with them in regards to the SBA EIDL (Small Business Association Economic Injury Disaster Loan)," said Charla Burton, the book keeper for The Spotlight Lounge and the girlfriend of part owner Matt Miskimins. "I can't say they approved us, but we qualify for sure. But there's a certain form, it's a 4506-T form, which is a form to the IRS stating that the SBA can get our IRS transcripts for 2019 and 2020. But they [the SBA] changed it to where you can't use that form; you have to use a 4506-T form that says 'Disaster' on it. We've done that. So long story short, we've turned in 7 4506-T forms since October."
Burton said that they've been in a constant state of uncertainty since October of last year due to the alleged 'mishandling' of their forms by the SBA. And, Burton said, they're not the only business to be struggling with this.
"I joined this SBA EIDL Facebook group and it's not just us; it's everybody in the U.S. is dealing with the same exact thing," she said. "What I've read is that in order to get through to the SBA...the only people that have actually gotten through to actually get funding is people that have contacted their Congress. So I contacted Liz Cheney's office and have been talking to them. And ever since they got involved, I wanna say about two weeks ago, it's progressed. I did receive an Email from the SBA on Thursday saying that they put us on a high priority list."
Burton stated, unequivocally, that this SBA loan is the deciding factor on whether or not they will stay open.
"We've been waiting since October for it," she said. "And Liz Cheney's office has been amazing to step right in and all correspondence has been going through her office and they're on it. I mean, they are on it. I've never had to go to a government official to help me and they're all over it, which I was super impressed with. They have been a big help. But that's where we stand; without that SBA EID loan, we have no capital to work off of."
It was announced at Tuesday's city council meeting that the Spotlight Lounge would not be renewing their liquor license and Burton said that last Saturday's show could very well have been their last.
"What we worry about most is our staff," Burton revealed. "We told them 'Here's the deal, this might be our last show and if you guys need to find other employment, we understand.' And every single one of them have said "No, we're staying with you to the end, bottom line.'"
It's not just the employees that would be impacted by the loss of Spotlight, either. Since it opened, The Spotlight Lounge has featured a wide-array of local and national acts; bands, solo artists, and more.
"Debbie Dallman [Owner of The Spotlight Lounge] has worked her ass off," Burton said. "Debbie has us booked out all the way until the end of July. And if this loan doesn't come through, we're going to have to call all of those acts, even the national artists, and cancel if we can't move them out to the Sky Terrace because of this funding."
Matt Miskimins, the other owner of The Spotlight Lounge, said that it's a place for local artists to come and play for audiences, whether it's a big Saturday night show or even just an acoustic set during a lunch hour.
"We're a great music venue," Miskimins said. "It's amazing down here. We have state-of-the-art lights. We have state-of-the-art sound. It's a good place, we just need the capital. We contacted Liz Cheney's office and that's what's really given us the traction because the SBA seems like it's fallen on deaf ears for a long time. But once Charla got Liz Cheney's office involved, it seems like progress is being made. We just need some capital to work with and because all that capital we started with was absorbed into opening costs, that's where it gets expensive."
Burton said that they're just trying to make it to summer because, during those May-August months, Downtown Casper is an oasis of live music and events. The Spotlight Lounge is in the perfect place to really serve as another place for live music and entertainment. But if the SBA loan does not come through, they won't be able to last.
"We were super stoked because next summer is going to be amazing," Burton said. "You have the Spotlight and you can drink outside. You can go next door to Frontier Brewing. You can venture down the road to the Bourgeois Pig. The atmosphere we're trying to bring to Casper is like Fort Collins. In Fort Collins, you can go bar to bar and just have a good time, and that's what we're trying to bring to Downtown Casper."
Burton also said there's a historical aspect to The Spotlight Lounge.
"I remember my grandma dropping me off at the counter at the bar out front and having a banana malt with my brother while she went shopped," Burton said. "We wanted to keep the history here. We wanted to help bring more to downtown. But without that loan and without that capital to work on right now, we can't.
"Matt has a daytime job and he pays all of our bills and takes care of our family and puts money into The Spotliught. And Debbie is working at the Sky Terrace out at the airport all by herself seven days a week, just to have income for here. But we can't live like that forever. As much as our heart is into this, and as much as the community's heart is into this, we just can't do it. And it sucks because the SBA told us that we qualify. We know we qualify, but it's a matter of when. When are they going to approve us?"