A Lake View landmark is closing. The Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, known for its unique brand of comedy and music, will see its final curtain call Saturday, April 10, according to a press release from the venue's co-owner, Chris Ritter.
"There's simply no money available to fund forward looking initiatives," Ritter said in his statement, citing a mounting debt and a lack of funds for "much needed plant repairs."
When Windy City Times spoke with Ritter at Lakeshore, he was remorseful.
"It's like putting down the family dog," he told Windy City Times. "I love this place. I love my staff. This community has been so wonderful to us and I hate it that we can't stay open. It breaks my heart."
Ritter acknowledged that the theater is in debt and that non-box office inquiries regarding payment should be directed to the venue's attorney, Anne Shaw.
"Everyone who purchased tickets for shows after April 10th will get a full refund. If they paid in cash, and we have their information on file, we'll mail them a check, or they can come to the box office before we close," Ritter said.
Ritter took over operations of Lakeshore eight years ago and he said revenues have grown over the last several years, despite the recession's pinch on the local economy. Nonetheless, there have been signs that the venue's purported success seemed to be waning. Tickets were often given away for free, and structural problems abounded.
"My biggest mistake is that I didn't initially throw every dime I had at this place when we first opened," Ritter said. "I didn't have that kind of money at the time, though. I thought if I could save a little bit to improve it over time we would, ultimately, be in a better position down the road. In a mid-sized theater like this one problem snowballs into many bigger problems."
In an era of Broadway's big-budget stage productions and multiplex cinemas, smaller, independent theaters that offer a wide variety of alternative productionsplaces that often showcase outstanding local talentperpetually struggle to break even, let alone compete. For example, the Mercury Theater in Lakeview's Southport corridor also went black earlier this year.
Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, indicated that Lakeshore's closing could have a domino effect on other local businesses.
"It's a huge impact. Lakeshore Theater brought in thousands of people who then spent their money at other businesses in the neighborhood. We're definitely going to see a loss of revenue for some of those other merchants. It is sad to see it close. Lake View is so vibrant and so many people flock here for all of our restaurants, bars, and shopping. Lakeshore Theater added to all of that. Of course, the neighborhood will certainly remain a destination and I hope other investors will keep Lakeshore's doors open," Martino said.
So what's next for Lakeshore? Martino said that she and Ritter and the building's landlord have been in discussions with new, potential investors, but as of late no plans have been made.
As for Ritter, after he closes the curtains on Lakeshore, he may be opening them again elsewhere. When asked whether or not he would be taking on a management position at Mayne Stage, the Rogers Park music hall formerly known as Morse Theater, which is scheduled to open later this summer, Ritter said, "I can neither confirm, nor deny that. Yes, there have been some discussions about that, but that's not important right now. What's important is that we close this place gracefully, that my staff is taken care of, and that we address any lingering issues expeditiously. After that, I hope to remain in show biz. It's what I do and it's what I love."
For more information on box-office refunds at Lakeshore Theater after April 10, call 773-472-3492. Inquiries regarding the sale/lease of the theater can be directed to Maureen Martino at the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, 773-348-8608.