The dark buildings and empty spaces have become a grim reality for many business owners.By Nicole Ford

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Lawmakers and local business owners spoke out Wednesday about concerns over a lack of funding options amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s a plea for help from restaurant and entertainment workers. For many businesses, federal loan help is running out while more restrictions are being put in place.

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“We’ve gone from over 300 events a year to zero. A staff of over 45 people a day to six working one shift a week in our small coffee shop, which has been operating in a loss since it reopened in August,” said Liz Berlin, who owns Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

The dark buildings and empty spaces have become a grim reality for many business owners.

“I’m a working mother. And as a working mother, I’ve personally felt the struggle, the struggle to provide for my family,” said Jamie Fadden, who is a freelance lighting director.

As the pandemic continues, the entertainment community remains shuttered. The hope for CARES Act relief from the state is gone. On Friday, a bill passed allowing the $1.3 billion to be used to balance the state’s budget.

A spokesperson for Republican Senator Jake Corman told KDKA that without that balanced budget, taxes would be raised, putting more stress on those same families.

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“I was extremely disappointed in the budgeting process. Rank-and-file members weren’t really brought into that discussion until the very end,” said Representative Sara Innamorato.

With few options left, those industry workers are pleading for more options.

“I ask that you find compassion somewhere in your heart to pass a relief bill. Without this industry, we will live in a very dull world. This industry is a thriving ecosystem and part of it is the small businesses that provide a space for the arts,” Fadden said.

The future continues to be unknown with no financial support.

“We’ve been able to fight and scratch and get some funding to get through part of 2021. I can’t foresee us getting much further past that,” said Thomas Barr, who owns Spirit in Lawrenceville.

Now the bartenders, servers, technicians and more are turning to their neighbors for help.

“Use your voice. Call your state elected officials. Ask if they voted for this budget and if they did, why,” Innamorato said.

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Innamorato also encourages the public to support local and tip well this holiday season.