During Monday’s work session, Mayor Steve Tumlin and Council members Grif Chalfant and Van Pearlberg expressed concerns about cutting a check if that money was going straight into Goldstein’s pocket without prolonging the theater’s lifespan.
“There’s no question we want to save the theater,” Pearlberg said. “It is an incredible asset to the community. However, I think if we’re going to give money, and the majority of that money is going to go for (back) rent, I think the citizens of Marietta should know where their money’s going.”
Goldstein, who stepped down from the council dais to make his remarks, said the theater owes him about $137,000. Over half that amount is from the unpaid $10,778 per month rent, with the rest made up of owed property taxes, insurance and other expenses, he said.
“How in the world did they get that much in the hole?” Councilman Anthony Coleman asked after the meeting. “How long has this been going on? You let me and you not pay our rent where we live at — we’d be out on the street.”
Mike Russell, who chairs the theater’s board, said he’s given the board a March 16 deadline to raise $60,000, which would address the immediate needs of the theater to keep it open. To date, the board has raised $15,000 to $20,000 of that amount, he said.
Russell said the theater also needs to raise an additional $400,000 by June 30 so that it can move on from its current 30th season into its 31st season.
Goldstein and Russell said they are renegotiating the lease to lower the monthly rent payments.
Goldstein said that in 2006, Theatre in the Square signed a 30-year lease for nearly 24,000 square feet of space. But since Russell said the theater doesn’t need some of its second-floor office space, which Goldstein estimated to be between 6,000 and 7,000 square feet, Goldstein said he was willing to revise the lease.
Goldstein said he would send Theatre in the Square a proposed new lease today.
Goldstein also said that if Theatre in the Square agreed to be current with its payments from now on, he would be willing to give them more time to pay off the $137,000 debt.
“While I’m willing to work with them on pre-March obligations, they have to be current March and stay current with future obligations,” Goldstein said.
As part of the city’s auto rental tax collections, the City already gives Theatre in the Square $38,196 per year, with the payments made monthly at $3,183 per month. Since there are four months left to be paid out for the fiscal year, Tumlin proposed advancing them the four months. City Manager Bill Bruton said the city was expected to collect about $50,000 more than anticipated from the tax, so Tumlin also proposed giving the theater $7,300 of that overage.
“They basically said they needed $60,000 by March 16,” Tumlin said. “They’ve already raised $20,000. My mind said ‘Let’s match that $20,000, and then they have to go raise $20,000 more.’”
Chalfant also said he wanted Russell to bring some hard numbers for what it takes for the theater to remain open to Wednesday’s Council meeting.
“I just got to see some type of pro forma for what it takes for them to stay in business,” Chalfant said.
Council voted 5-1 to advance the proposal to the Council’s Wednesday meeting agenda for final action, with Coleman opposed and Goldstein sitting in the audience.
“It’s not my responsibility as a councilperson to bail the Theatre in the Square out,” Coleman said. “I think they attract and bring a lot of tourism in, but it’s not our responsibility.”
But Tumlin said the downtown would take an economic hit if the theater were to fold.
“One, I think you lose economic impact directly,” Tumlin said. “Most of their patrons come back to the Square and frequent the restaurants.”
“When you cross that railroad track coming from Paulding County, and you look to your right, and you see that big marquee which catches your eye, and you look in and see ‘For rent. Call Philip Goldstein,’ that would send a horrible message that the Square was dying,” he said.