The Cambrian

Theater group stops fundraising

A campaign to raise funds needed to reopen the Pewter Plough Playhouse was called off after lease negotiations reached an impasse, the nonprofit group that staged shows at the theater announced Tuesday, March 23.

The building is owned by Jim Buckley, 97, who, with his late wife, Olga, opened the West Village venue in 1976. For more than a decade, a tax-deductible nonprofit organization has produced the shows, while Buckley retained ownership of the building.

When public safety officials ordered the building closed until a fire-prevention sprinkler system is installed, the Pewter Plough Players nonprofit group began raising the $32,000 needed to install the system. As the nonprofit group would be paying for the system, it was seeking to negotiate a lease with Buckley to ensure it would benefit from use of those sprinklers for years to come.

Those negotiations broke off Monday, March 22, according to Viv Goff, a member of the nonprofit group’s

board of directors. She said all money donated to pay for the sprinklers will be returned to the donors, and a previously announced fundraising dinner April 18 at the Veterans Memorial Building has been cancelled.

“Several issues were unresolved,” according to a statement issued by the nonprofit group, “including financing installation of fire sprinklers ... terminology and conditions for the Players’ tenure in the building. …

“The (nonprofit’s) board of directors will meet soon to discuss future productions and related activities.”

According to a statement issued by Jim Buckley’s son James Buckley, listed in the nonprofit’s press release as trustee for the Buckley Trust, negotiations had reached “99 percent agreement ... The final items comprised clarifying relatively minor aspects of language ... Jim Buckley is still open and interested in trying to work out the outstanding issues.”

The Buckleys thank supporters, the statement adds, and will continue to search for funds to install sprinklers. It also adds that “a benevolent, theatre-loving buyer is also being sought,” to allow continuation of the theater.

The theater closed Feb. 28. A permit to install the sprinklers expires July 31.