To help “Eddie Owen Presents” at the Red Clay Theatre become a success and to create a nighttime economy in downtown Duluth, the city council is planning to consider taking over the utility payments for the theatre at its upcoming regular August meeting.
At a Monday (Aug. 6) council work session, Duluth Economic Development Manager Chris McGahee proposed that the council amend Owen’s lease so the city assumes responsibility for an estimated $20,000 in utility costs for 12 months and authorizes $3,000 in general maintenance funds for air-conditioning, plumbing, etc. The money would come from the city’s general reserve funds, McGahee said.
Owen lost his potential financial partners, McGahee told the council, and “is running out of resources.” Owen’s business is not yet developed enough to support paying for utilities and maintenance, McGahee said. The theatre experiences flooding when it rains and needs aesthetic improvements.
EOP concerts at the RCT are attracting visitors to the city and creating “buzz” about Duluth, McGahee said. “Some shows are well attended, others are not,” he said. “It’s figuring out what this market will support.”
Also, McGahee said, the Red Clay Theatre is hosting an important economic conference Oct. 11. “We need to have the venue looking the best it can be [for the conference],” he said. City staff will be coming back to the council with a proposal to spruce it up, McGahee said.
In the meantime, City Councilman Billy Jones and a group of volunteers he organized have undertaken painting and making minor repairs to the RCT. Jones has scheduled a workday for this Sunday, Aug. 12, from noon to 5 p.m. at the theatre. Additional volunteers are welcome. The council agreed Jones should be reimbursed for the cost of paint and other supplies that he was paid for out of his own pocket so far.
The council also agreed to put the amendment to Owen’s lease on the agenda for a vote at its Aug. 13 regular meeting.
Under the two-year lease and management agreement approved last fall, the city and Owen agreed to split the net profits of “Eddie Owen Presents” at the Red Clay Theatre 60/40 with EOP receiving the larger percentage. EOP keeps 100 percent of the net profit from concession sales. The agreement required EOP to take over paying for electrical, gas and water utilities starting April 1. McGahee said the city would be proposing a change in the profit-sharing ratio in the near future.
Owen, the founder of the legendary Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, had decided to devote himself totally to making the Red Clay Theatre in Duluth a success since parting ways in May with new Eddie’s Attic owners, whom he had agreed to help book acts in return for their helping him financially with the RCT venture.
Owen and Eddie’s Attic have been credited with launching the careers of Sugarland, John Mayer, the Zac Brown Band and others.
Owen resigned last October as general manager of Eddie’s Attic under the previous ownership and subsequently announced plans to launch his “Eddie Owen Presents” concerts at the Red Clay Theatre in downtown Duluth.
The first EOP concert at RCT occurred in December, and Owen has been regularly presenting live weekend and occasional midweek concerts by singer-songwriters in the 250-plus-seat Duluth venue. He recently inititated Open Mic Night on Mondays.
Since Owen has taken over management of the RCT, the city replaced the roof, and the Downtown Development Authority paid for replacement heating and air-conditioning units in the basement. The new roof was paid for with $30,000 the city received from a 2009 insurance claim paid by GEMA and FEMA for storm damage.
The end of the theatre is presently covered by unsightly tarpaper. Water damage from heavy rains in the fall of 2009 and ground flooding resulted in demolition of the end of the building. Water has been coming through the temporary wall and flooding the basement where the dressing room for Red Clay Theatre performers is located when it rains.
The DDA at its July 17 meeting approved hiring the engineering firm of Hill Foley Rossi and authorizing the expenditure of $16,500 to design and prepare construction documents to pour a foundation to stabilize the unstable temporary wall at the end of the RCT, expand the basement, and install a concrete pad on top of the vacant land between the theatre and Pure Taqueria. The pad would be foundation-ready for future development. The DDA also approved spending $5,000 for HFR to design new restrooms and other improvements in the RCT.
A small alleyway between Pure Taqueria and the expanded Red Clay Theatre would remain.