Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Baltimore's Senator Theatre to Close

This press release just showed up on PR Newswire. Sad day. Please note the time change for the upcoming town hall at The Senator, which will now be held on Monday, March 16th at 7:00 PM.

Baltimore's Senator Theatre to Close


BALTIMORE, March 11 /PRNewswire/ -- The historic Senator Theatre has been pursuing a transition to community-based ownership, but debt and operational deficits are threatening to derail the plan. The theatre's mortgage is in default and analysis of current cash flow indicates that closure and an auction sale are imminent.

"We just received notice that accelerated foreclosure is proceeding, said Senator owner Tom Kiefaber. "It's alarming to be in such a precarious position at this critical point when so many people who appreciate The Senator want it to remain in operation through this transition to a community-owned resource."

Results from recent round table discussions, online forums and town meetings demonstrated strong support among Baltimore's business and residential communities for the theatre to remain open as ownership transitions from Kiefaber to a new non-profit, community owned entity. Historic theatres nationwide have undergone non-profit conversion to expand educational and entertainment programming and ensure their preservation.

In response to Kiefaber's advocacy of community ownership of The Senator, leaders from across Baltimore recently formed The Senator Community Trust. The non-profit entity plans to commence raising funds to purchase the theatre in its mission "to preserve, protect and restore Baltimore's cherished landmark, the historic Senator Theatre."

A town hall meeting will be held at The Senator on Monday, March 16th at 7pm.

Kiefaber has agreed to a request from The Senator Community Trust to make the theatre available for the town meeting as an open forum to provide the public with the facts and discuss how this situation is likely to affect The Senator and the extended community. The Trust has invited city and state officials and members of the city's ad hoc Senator Steering Committee. All concerned are welcome and encouraged to attend.

A recent public offer by Mayor Dixon's office to Kiefaber is intended to reduce the theatre's debt and facilitate The Senator's conversion to non-profit ownership as a proviso of the deal. "I have notified the city of my acceptance of their offer, but the details are yet to be resolved. It's an involved process that's being pressured by the foreclosure timeline," Kiefaber said.

Sean Brescia of Clearpath Management, who has been working to demonstrate the viability of multi-purpose uses for the theatre and helping coordinate efforts among the various parties, said, "These scenarios take time to develop properly and no one, including the city, is going to have the chance to identify the most viable opportunities ahead if the outcome is forced by foreclosure."

There has been much public speculation regarding the city's offer to Kiefaber, which is conditioned on the city's determination that a non-profit Senator Theatre is sustainable. In an apparent contradiction of the stated terms of the offer, that pivotal decision may have been made already.

According to a member of the city's Senator Theatre steering committee, "We have looked at many examples for a nonprofit and not one of them exists without considerable subsidy. That is not possible in today's environment." In reference to the newly formed Senator Community Trust, the representative added, "If the Trust wishes an active role, they should begin raising the several hundred thousand [dollars] required to bid at auction. There are likely to be excellent and well-financed bidders there and it's my guess that is likely to be where we are in a few short weeks."

"I don't presume to speak to the city's intentions," Brescia added, "They need to speak for themselves. There seems to be a lot of confusion about their perspective and the participation of city officials at Monday's town meeting would greatly benefit public understanding of the situation. In any case, the theatre is headed rapidly to auction. It's now up to people to make their voices heard and ask the city to follow through on their offer if the community wants to have any say in the Senator's uncertain future."

Clearpath Management Senator Management
866.944.4409 x1 410.435.3583
info@clearpathmanagement.com info@senator.com

SOURCE Clearpath Management

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