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Theatre 80 St. Marks Owners Fight to Keep Venue After Being Told to Vacate By August

For over 60 years, the venue has hosted numerous plays and musicals including the original production of "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown."

Theatre 80 St. Marks Owners Fight to Keep Venue After Being Told to Vacate By August

Downtown theatre staple, Theatre 80 St. Marks, is facing an uncertain future as its owners face eviction this summer, according to The Village Sun.

This week, a bankruptcy judge has appointed an overseer for the sale of the venue, located between First and Second Avenues, leaving second-generation owner, Lorcan Otway and his wife Genie, potentially impoverished and homeless as they have been mandated to vacate by August 2022.

This past December, Otway was forced to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy, when a $6 million debt Otway owed to lender Hershmark was sold to Maverick Real Estate Partners and shot up to $9.3 million under the new lender. The forced closure of theaters throughout the Covid-19 pandemic added to the venue's money woes, resulting in what Otway calls a "forced taking."

Though the declaration bought Otway time to avoid a forced auction, Maverick has come to collect.

In a statement to the court, later shared on Facebook, Otway said, "The elephant in this room is the COVID takings without just compensation. I beg the court to not destroy almost 60 years of my life's work, endangering my ability to support my wife in our senior years, so that a predatory company can make an unusually high profit in the face of a worldwide disaster...Citizens who willingly follow the government's orders for the public good, should not be impoverished by that act of good citizenship."

"We're going to lose everything we own, including our personal property. They're trying to take not only the building - we will be living in a homeless shelter with literally only the clothes on our back." Otway told The Village Sun.

Otway's plans include refinancing and continuing the fight in the courts, up to and including The Supreme Court, provided he can find pro bono representation.

"I haven't given up. We are trying very hard to refinance. It will be a hard-money loan," Otway told The Village Sun.

Otway insists that the loss of the space would be a blow to the larger artistic community as well as he and his wife. For over 60 years, the venue has hosted numerous plays and musicals including the original production of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. The William Barnacle Tavern also calls the space home.

"I have made this place a resource for the community," he said. "Whether there's any issue in the community, whether I agree with it or not, I open my doors to it. You know "Charlie Brown" opened here in 1967. It's a staple of theater history and community theater around the world. So this theft is more than just my wife and I. It's a theft from the world's expectation that culture has a hatchery, a breeding ground."

"The courts have been partners in removing working-class ownership," he continued, "Both political parties are undoing every program from the New Deal and the Great Society that created working-class ownership. And the courts are assisting in giving all working-class property to a millionaire and billionaire class."

Theatre 80 carries on a generational cultural function, which has helped to create the East Village from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. When Theatre 80 was first envisioned and built at 80 Saint Marks Place, the neighborhood of the Lower East Side was a blighted area and the term East Village had yet to be coined. We were among the first of the cultural institutions, which began the Lower East Side Arts Movement resulting in the neighborhood now being referred to as the East Village.

Beginning during Prohibition, 80 Saint Marks Place was a vital destination for performers of all kinds. Jazz greats such as Thelonious Monk, Harry "Sweets" Edison, John Coltrane and Frank Sinatra performed here before Theatre 80 was established in the former nightclub. The tradition of excellence continues at Theatre 80 where the careers of many famous performers were launched including Gary Burghoff, Bob Balaban and former usher, Billy Crystal.

During the 1970s and 80s the space acted as as a film revival house, where people were able to see vintage films on a movie theatre screen in an audience setting. It was also visited by a host of great names in theater, many of whom left their names, foot and hand prints in the cement of the sidewalk. A partial list includes Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones, Winnie Shaw, Fifi D'Orsay, and Joan Rivers.

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation recognized Theatre 80 with the Village Award for its place in the history of the community. The company remains relevant to the community, while continuing to recognize and uphold traditions. They're known for presenting a range of productions from traditional forms such as Shakespearean theater and flamenco dance, to the cutting edge avant-garde and works from new authors.

They have helped create new audiences by welcoming both public and private school groups for matinees and tours of the theater which have included schools from as far away as Toronto and have provided the theater for free or at reduced rates for community meetings, local film-makers, playwrights, 12 step meetings, memorials for members of the community.

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