Reality vs. State Theatre hype

Okay, let's take a moment and breathe, everyone. The Press Herald today reports that the owner of the State Theatre "hopes the 81-year-old theater will be hosting shows within the year." The Associated Press took a version of that story, and the Boston Herald went nuts, saying it "could be reopened within year."

There's no news in either story. The owners have for years been doing piecemeal work bringing the building closer to code. They have also repeatedly refused to invest in the kinds of amenities actual promoters want for actual shows. Despite the $700,000 that the owner claims has already gone into the building, that's not enough.

The new owner told the PPH he would want the tenant to invest as much as another $700,000 for - get this: "new paint, carpeting, a sound system, kitchen equipment and a point-of-sale system.

This is a tenants' market. Even for mid-size venues like the State Theatre. I don't know any tenants who are excited about investing in paint and carpeting - or kitchen equipment that's not portable. A POS system? Maybe - the tenant could take it with them if they left. A sound system? Possibly - it may not be portable either. Anything that's fixed to the building is likely to be viewed as landlord territory by any prospective tenant.

And this landlord is making clear that's not an option.

Beyond that, the landlord's eviction of the last tenant is still in court - so presumably a court could throw out the eviction and reinstant the tenant. There's no way in hell I'd rent a place - much less invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in unrecoverable costs for immovable things - unless I was damn sure I was going to be able to stay.

Then they want $15,000 a month in rent - for a venue with a capacity of 1500? Okay, so that's one sell-out concert a month with a $10 admission ticket - just to pay the rent. That's potentially not bad, but remember, the tenants will be trying to recoup that $700,000 and cover their regular outlay for staff, booze, maintenance, paying bands, etc. They'd need a whole lot of sell-out concerts to make that happen - or tickets a whole lot more expensive than $10.

To sum up, a tenant would need:

-Hundreds of thousands of dollars in unrecoverable expenses for immovable work and objects;

-Flexibility to be thrown out of the lease at any time a court ruled the previous eviction was inappropriate (if the court ruled that way);

-A huge amount of ready cash to cover operating expenses for months into the future;

-The ability to book absolute-guaranteed sell-out concerts several times a month, at price points at or above $20 per head.

Sounds like a recipe for continued vacancy at a venue that everyone laments the loss of but nobody is willing to invest in - including the people who own the place.

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