Gen­er­ous Rapp lenders couldn’t keep His­toric Culpeper State Theatre afloat

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By JoHn Mc­caslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

Al­most one year to the day that it abruptly went dark, the fi­nan­cially strapped Culpeper State Theatre is in fore­clo­sure — set to go on the auc­tion block Wed­nes­day, Sept. 13, at 11 a.m.

Few are as up­set about the his­toric 500-seat theatre’s demise as the un­named in­di­vid­u­als from Rap­pa­han­nock County who gen­er­ously opened their wal­lets to keep the circa 1938 vaude­ville-style show­house afloat.

Al­though their iden­ti­ties are not known, the Rap­pa­han­nock res­i­dents re­port­edly made a to­tal of $5 mil­lion dol­lars in loans to the theatre on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions, once through a lim­ited li­a­bil­ity com­pany, Mel­bell, LLC, which

was or­ga­nized on March 9, 2011.

“As the at­tor­ney that was in­volved for both of the lenders to the State Theatre any of my in­for­ma­tion is con­fi­den­tial and I wouldn’t be at lib­erty to dis­close any iden­ti­ties with re­spect to Mel­bell, LLC,” Wash­ing­ton at­tor­ney Michael T. Brown tells the Rap­pa­han­nock News. “That’s the rea­son that was done through an LLC, so that the iden­tity would not be a mat­ter of pub­lic record.”

As is usu­ally the case, this LLC lists as its ad­dress the rep­re­sent­ing le­gal firm, in this case Walker Jones Law, 211-A Main Street, Wash­ing­ton.

Quot­ing court doc­u­ments, the Culpeper Star-Ex­po­nent re­ported last week that “a Rap­pa­han­nock County cou­ple made a $2 mil­lion loan to the State Theatre Foun­da­tion in 2012 with a sched­uled ma­tu­rity date by the fol­low­ing year. The re­pay­ment sched­ule was ex­tended in 2013 to 2020, as the re­quest of the State Theatre Foun­da­tion, and the cred­i­tor agreed so long as the loan did not de­fault, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

“A sec­ond Rap­pa­han­nock County party, Mel­bell LLC, made a $3 mil­lion dol­lar loan to the foun­da­tion for con­struc­tion around the same time for which the re­pay­ment sched­ule was also ex­tended to 2020 at the re­quest of the Foun­da­tion, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.”

The news­pa­per says the 2017 real es­tate as­sess­ment for the re­stored theatre puts its value at only $2.68 mil­lion, even though a re­ported $13 mil­lion restora­tion took place in 2013.

Un­til it closed Sept. 14, 2016, the theatre was led by a vol­un­teer board of direc­tors headed by Jerry Whit­lock (chair), Joseph Wills (vice chair), Gary Lee (trea­surer), Elizabeth Hutchins (sec­re­tary), Alex Forte, Chris Hamil­ton, Don Haight, Mike Hud­son, Oc­tavia Yates, and Joe Grills (board ad­vi­sor).

While Whit­lock did not re­turn phone calls, the board had nu­mer­ous fundrais­ing ef­forts un­der­way at the time the theatre was shut­tered, in­clud­ing tax-de­ductible do­na­tions, a preser­va­tion so­ci­ety, in­di­vid­ual and cor­po­rate an­nual mem­ber­ships, seat ded­i­ca­tions, per­son­al­ized en­graved bricks, and side­walk stars sim­i­lar to those in Hol­ly­wood. The board also wel­comed do­na­tions through es­tate plan­ning. All of which, it turns out, wasn’t enough.

“Dear Culpeper Com­mu­nity,” a large no­tice from last Septem­ber reads on the door of the theatre. “It is with great sad­ness that the State Theatre Foun­da­tion Board of Direc­tors an­nounce that we will be sus­pend­ing the op­er­a­tions of the theatre un­til fur­ther no­tice . . .

“We had hoped that with the changes in staffing, our new di­rec­tion of di­verse pro­gram­ming, and our com­mu­nity part­ner­ships and ed­u­ca­tional out­reach that we would be able to cre­ate re­newed in­ter­est for the com­mu­nity and the re­gion to pro­vide the con­trib­uted in­come nec­es­sary to sus­tain op­er­a­tions. Un­for­tu­nately, while we saw a trend of pos­i­tive re­sults, we fell short of our fundrais­ing goals to keep us mov­ing for­ward . . .

“In the com­ing months, the State Theatre Foun­da­tion Board of Direc­tors will take the ap­pro­pri­ate steps to de­cide how to move for­ward.”

Ap­par­ently there were few steps to take. The auc­tion will take place out­side the Culpeper County Court­house, with a re­quired min­i­mum of $250,000 to bid.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.