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Bloomington businesses adapt to COVID-19 restrictions



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The Buskirk-Chumley Theater facade is seen March 29 on Kirkwood Avenue. The theater has lost more than $100,000 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Alex Deryn

Tamara Loewenthal, executive director of the Lotus Education and Arts Foundation, said she estimates that her organization lost up to $40,000 from canceling its spring programming due to COVID-19.

While the non profit did a match campaign which raised more than $30,000 and some sponsors continued to donate, Loewenthal said there was less support given this year. She said there have been fewer donations because donors can’t see their programming in action.

“When a sponsor attends a show it reinforces for them, ‘of course I want to support this,’” Loewenthal said.

This foundation is one of several organizations that suffered financially because of COVID-19. In Bloomington, many businesses closed their doors in early March in accordance with national and state guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Buskirk-Chumley Theater lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, with about $100,000 being refunds for shows, said Jonah Crismore, executive director of the theater. Crismore said the theater hasn’t had a large-scale event since early March.

“Going on six months now, we haven’t been able to really do what we do best, which is bringing the community together,” Crismore said.

Inkwell, a bakery and cafe in downtown Bloomington, closed on March 16 and did not reopen until Aug. 10. Owner Tracy Gates said she and her partner could not have gotten enough people in to justify staying open.

“It’s expensive just to turn the lights on,” Gates said. “It would have cost me more to be open.”

While Inkwell, the Buskirk-Chumley and Lotus were hindered by COVID-19, their owners and executive directors developed different ways to make money and keep their organizations open.

Though the Buskirk-Chumley canceled its large events, the theater put together some virtual concerts and socially distanced screenings in their space.

In July, the theater screened classic films such as “Singing in the Rain” and “The Breakfast Club” and allowed about 100 people into the theater, which can seat about 600 people, per screening. The organization also had a virtual benefit concert featuring Southern Indiana musician Carrie Newcomer in July.

The theater’s next virtual event is a concert with Indiana singer-songwriter Peter Oren on Sept. 26.

While Lotus has not been able to continue its in-person programming, it had some virtual events in order to raise money for artists. While this didn’t directly help Lotus raise money for the foundation, it did help the organization fulfill their mission of sharing music and supporting artists, Loewenthal said.

“We understood that we exist to share their music,” she said.

Loewenthal said the Lotus Festival will be a virtual event this year, where people, where people do not have to pay to attend the Friday and Saturday events but need to purchase a souvenir pin to go to the Thursday and Sunday performances. There will also be one in-person event on Saturday, Sept. 26 in Switchyard Park.

While Inkwell did not have people in the cafe this summer, it made some money by delivering bakery items such as pop tarts and granola. Now that Inkwell's outdoor area is open, it is trying to comply with COVID-19 rules by using more to-go containers, hiring fewer people to work shorter shifts and not offering every normal menu item.

Even though the outdoor area is open, Gates said she still doesn’t feel like she can open the indoor area yet because she does not know enough about the number of COVID-19 cases on campus.

“I really want to, but I’m not going to because it’s not the right decision right now,” Gates said.

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