Theater company says the show will go on in downtown
Enchanted Playhouse Theater Company moves forward with plans to host events, fundraisers and performances at the Main Street Theater despite eviction notice from the City of Visalia
By Reggie Ellis
VISALIA – A local children’s theater company may have been served with an eviction notice, but they say the show will go on at their downtown home at least through the end of the year.
Enchanted Playhouse Theater Company, a cultural fixture in downtown Visalia for two decades, says it plans to hold at least three more events at the Main Street Theater between now and Dec. 15. The City of Visalia, which owns the theater building at 307 E. Main St., served Enchanted Playhouse Theater Company (EPTC) with an eviction notice on Sept. 6 in order to force the non-profit to pay the $13,000 it owes in late rent payments. Prior to the eviction notice, EPTC says it received written permission from the city to occupy the building through Dec. 31, 2018. On Sept. 11, the children’s theater company announced it was “not going away” and is submitting a formal request for additional negotiations with the city.
As proof of its dedication to stay in the building, EPTC said it is moving forward with plans to open its latest show, “Once Upon Pandora’s Box,” on Oct. 5 and has scheduled several school shows with 1,500 children attending from schools throughout Tulare and Kings Counties through Oct. 19.
“Without cooperation and serious negotiations with the City of Visalia, the theater company will be forced to turn these children away,” the EPTC stated in a Sept. 11 press release.
On Oct. 20, EPTC will hold its second fundraiser, a silent auction and concert featuring the Valley’s favorite cover band Run 4 Cover, at the theater. EPTC hopes the fundraiser will help it reach its goal of $50,000 to put a down payment on a loan to buy the Main Street Theater. The non-profit also started a GoFundMe.com page to help raise money toward the goal. As of press time, EPTC’s GoFundMe.com page had raised just over $2,600.
On Dec. 7 and 8, EPTC will present “A Christmas Carol,” a one man show performed by local actor Kelly Ventura benefiting the Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company. On Dec. 15, EPTC will hold a talent show called “A Night of the Arts” at the Main Street Theater.
“The experience provided by the theater company teachers children social skills, reading skills, and self-esteem,” the EPTC stated in the press release. “If the theater company is forced to move, it will reduce their outreach to children by 70%.”
The City of Visalia has not stated if and when they would formally remove EPTC from the theater building but did state they have ended negotiations. On Sept. 6, the city informed the children’s theater group that it would not accept EPTC’s formal offer to purchase the theater building because the offer did not meet any of the City’s minimum terms that the purchase price be at least $450,000 and that it not be financed.
In its Aug. 23 letter, EPTC offered to pay $300,000 for the building and requested a five-year financing plan with a variable interest rate and agreed to enhance the property and bring additional entertainment acts to downtown. EPTC stated it felt $300,000 was a fair offer due to the condition of the building and given how much money the theater company has invested into the building – more than $650,000 since it began leasing it from the city 16 years ago. Since August 2004, EPTC has paid $402,125 in lease payments, $214,498 in utilities, and $34,953 in repairs, maintenance and improvements. Since moving into the Main Street Theater in 1997, EPTC says it has spent over $1.2 million on the building.
“Had the City of Visalia kept the $600,000 used to purchase the building in a typical savings account for example, the City of Visalia would have earned approximately $83,000 on that $600,000 principal,” EPTC’s press release stated. “Instead, the City of Visalia has earned more than $400,000 profit on the original $600,000 investment.”
It is expected that the City Council will consider the ordinance to sell the building at its Oct. 1 meeting to Legacy Investments. JR Shannon, the sole owner of Legacy Investments, made an offer to purchase the building for $515,000 in response to the request for proposals (RFP) issued by the city in February.
Shannon proposes to use half of the 8,000 square foot property for “a new conceptual restaurant that we currently don’t have in Visalia.” He said the restaurant expects to hire 50-75 new employees, with the possibility of more for a catering arm of the business, and project $1.5 to $2.5 million in annual taxable sales. He stated that this tenant had already agreed to work with Enchanted Playhouse to host fundraising events for the theater company.
He went on to say that he is already in negotiations with another restaurant to lease the other half. Shannon also proposed using a 10- to 15-foot portion of the Garden Street Plaza as an outdoor patio area long the west wall of the building. In keeping with the RFP issued by the city, Shannon stated that the building’s front façade and Main Street Theater signage would remain and even be repaired. He also expressed interest in keeping the ticket sales window of the theater for some sort of use by the tenant. Shannon said he was ready to begin construction in August and have the building open by spring 2019.
EPTC stated it was irresponsible for a non-profit organization to over pay by $150,000 to purchase the building and unfair that it’s offer to maintain the building for live theater be compared to an offer for commercial purposes.
“Since the theatre company began, it has provided these opportunities to more than 300,000 students. In the interest of the children the organization serves, the theatre company is seeking further negotiations with the City of Visalia to propose and develop a positive outcome for the children of Tulare, Kings, and Kern counties.”