Curtain Ringing Down on Beloved Theatre 80 as Bankruptcy Auction Begins

Second generation owner Lorcan Otway and his wife Genie Gilmore were evicted last month by the developer Maverick Real Estate Partners, who had taken over a $6 million debt when Theatre 80 filed for bankuptcy during the height of the pandemic. The debt ballooned to $12 million with default penalties and sky high interest rates that made it impossible to service even after nightlife and theaters reopened. Now Maverick is trying to auction to off the prime property on St. Mark’s Place at a bankruptcy auction which is the likely death knell for an off Broadway theater where “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown” mades its worldwide debut back in 1967.

| 10 May 2023 | 09:03

The final curtain rang down on Theatre 80 last month and the second generation owner Lorcan Otway and his wife were evicted from their long time home above the theater, pub and museum that they had run for years.

Now Maverick Real Estate Partners is holding an auction to satisfy the $12 million in debt it holds on the two adjacent buildings at #78 and #80 St. Marks Place that, in addition to the off broadway theater, also housed the William Barnacle Tavern and the offbeat Museum of the American Gangster.

Otway and his wife Genie Gilmore were evicted from their home where they lived above the theater last month. His father Howard had purchased the theater and home in the 1960s.

Now several former residential tenants who were renters in one of the townhouse apartments upstairs are said to be teaming up with the lender to serve as a stalking horse in the bankruptcy auction using their holding company, LIK Hospitality.

Ori Kushner and Sivan Lahat, the principals behind LIK, had at one time offered to take over the kitchen of the tavern. That became vitally important in the early days of the pandemic when establishments could only re-open if food was served. But Otway said there food service was sporadic and they frequently claimed to be running out of supplies by late afternoon, jeopardizing the night time business make the most money. So Outway found another food supplier to sell shepherd’s pies to customers. And Kushner and Lahat sued claiming breach of an “oral contract” that nobody had ever seen. Otway said he made no such deal.

The suit claims they were misled about the state of the kitchen after they tried to make renovations.

An attorney for LIK did not return a call by presstime.

Otway said it is absurd that they did not realize the state of the kitchen. “They lived in the building for over ten years, all they had to do was look in the window and walk around and they could see for themselves.”

The lawsuit seeking several hundred thousand threw a wrench into the play to find a new lender to get rid of the $12 million debt to Maverick.

The lawsuit is just one of the latest complications for the theater. The original debt was incurred after a bitter family feud with Otway’s brother Thomas. That was eventually settled for a $6 million buyout of the 50 percent of the business not already owned by Otway. His brother dropped dead shortly after the settlement, so the money went to his family.

Otway said prior to being forced to close during COVID, he had been making on time re-payments to his lender--that is until COVID-19 forced the theater and pub to close in March 2020.

“We had to close down to protect the public, but the predatory lenders could continue to operate,” he said. He declared bankruptcy in December 2020.

Maverick Real Estate Partners bought the debt from the original lender and because the loan was in default, it caused the interest rate to balloon to 25 percent and for the establishment to be hit with added penalties that forced the debt up to the $12 million range. In just over two years, Maverick had doubled the amount owed on the loan at the time of the original bankruptcy filing in December 2020, Otway said.

LIK, according to Otway is teaming up with the “predatory bank” and is ready to submit a stalking horse bid of $8 million at the bankruptcy auction and that would keep Otway and his wife permanently locked out of the theater and his longtime home. “It’s a real crime against humanity,” said Otway.

He said he was never paid anything from LIK Holdings after they said they would takeover the food service at the establishment.

Michael Krevet, the chief of staff for the city’s commissioner of cultural affairs Lauire Csumbo, was able to push through a not-for-profit certification for Theatre 80 with the IRS last month. But he told Straus News that the short time frame from the time the not-for-profit status was approved last month and the date of the auction made it all but impossible to raise money from philanthropic organizations prior to the auction.

“These kinds of deals require months of due diligence,” Krevet said on May 8.

Otway said he has a secret backer who was ready to commit up to $5 million, but only if Otway could find matching funds. He declined to disclose the name of the would-be white knight.

A Go Fund Me Page was started by Genie Gilmore with the lofty goal of raising $8 million. But on the eve of the bankruptcy auction–which was set for May 9th–it had raised only $9,344, mostly from small donors who loved the neighborhood institution that Otway’s father Howard had taken over in the 1960s.

In its heyday, it was where “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” made its world debut in 1967 and countless stars had trekked through the small off off Broadway theater over the years. Otway said he helped his father dig out the theater in a renovation when he was a kid. And he said a secret back door once ran out the back to a butcher shop on First Ave from its days as a speakeasy and nightclub where Frank Sinatra once sang and Al Capone once drank.

“History and culture needs to be preserved,” said Marc Landman, who contributed $25 to the Go Fund drive.

Michael Sandare, who kicked in $50 noted, “William Barnacle has the best absinthe in East Village! #savetheater80.”

Another supporter has started a petition on urging Mayor Eric Adams to use eminent domain to seize the property and preserve the theater.

Since losing the home that he has lived in nearly sixty years, Otway, now 70, said he has taken up residence in the Bonitas House run by another neighborhood icon, Father Pat Moloney. Aside from helping troubled youths and homeless on the lower East Side for years, Father Moloney also was arrested in Novemeber 1993 after the FBI said he was running money from the infamous Brinks armed car robbery in Rochester, NY in January 1993. Over $2 million in cash from the robbery was found in a Stuyvesant Town apartment that Moloney held the lease for but which was being used by a former IRA man who slipped into the USA and worked as a doorman by day and in various casinos at night. The only money ever recovered from the Brinks robbery was the money the FBI found in the Stuyvesant Town aparement. Over $5 million from the original $7.4 million heist was never recovered. Moloney always proclaimed he had no knowledge of where the money came from and assumed it had ties to his co-defendants job working in casinos. Moloney professed his innocence but was convicted of conspiracy to hide the money, but not the actual robbery. He was convicted after a ended up serving over four years in federal prison in Pennsylvania.

When he was released in October, 1998, he resumed his work on the Lower East side at Bonitas House and Lazarus House on East 9th St.

“Without Father Pat, we’d be homeless,” said Otway.