Our Place

The downtown Lake Geneva theater, of a long tradition, is gone.
The owners of the theater, with some substantial help from the City of Lake Geneva, have decided to convert the place into a restaurant and bar (with some live shows of some sort, that will probably be like those of Champs, shows that support eating and drinking on into the night).  Just what the City of Lake Geneva needs is another place to drink and cavort in the after-hours!

The Geneva Shore Report opposed, back in 2016, the former city Alderperson Tom Hartz from receiving the $895,000 it set aside in order to rebuild the theater, one of the few very iconic and anchor buildings in the downtown area.  The GSR opposed this grant because Tom had just completed a stint in local politics and the editorial staff of the paper thought that the coincidence of that was just too much.  The money went to the owners of the rebuilt theater in Burlington, which seemed to be doing well.  The GSR opposed granting the money to them too.  Now we come full circle four years later, with all kinds of work done on the theater on the inside.  They have not posted permits to do anything inside that building and there won’t be a meeting about that until the 1st of November.

Jim Flower, El Segundo to Fred, the building inspector, said over the phone that the current operators of the building can tear anything down they want to, but they cannot rebuild without permits.  The GSR is intensely interested in the codicils that went with the granting of the $895,000 since the theater is already toast.  If the city is going to try to shift the use of that money or the requirements for repayment, if there even are any, then there will be hell to pay if the money is being used to build a bar.

The GSR argument, which got voted down four years ago, is that the city should never be financing or involved with the success or failure of private businesses.  It shows favoritism and it favors some businesses over others in the town who do not receive such huge stipends.  One codicil that was revealed of the original agreement, penned in 2016, requires the forgiveness of then percent per year (after the second year with a final 20% after the last year) until a decade has passed, at which time the total amount is forgiven.  Currently, the theater crew owes the city half the money ($400,000, at least) if they are no longer to be a theater.  If they keep a couple of little theaters inside the structure, while the main area is a restaurant and bar, does that count?  The GSR does not yet know, but it will.  There appears nothing in the agreements with the city, reviewed by Attorney Dan Draper, that would seem to define what a theater really is, or how minimal the structure could be redesigned in order to meet the necessary contract obligations while spending almost all efforts on being a restaurant and bar.

November’s meeting (the 1st) may well be definitive in figure what happened and what’s going to be done about it.  By that time the demolishing crew will have the place gutted.  What can the city do then?

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