Toledo Theatre’s Trying Debut

Infighting among city officials in Toledo, Ohio, over a recently reopened theatre may be making headlines but, despite a few hiccups, it’s so far so good for a local promoter who books the venue.

Part of the city’s Erie Street Market, the Toledo Civic Theatre is a historic room that served as a flea market, storage garage and public exhibition and entertainment hall before being shuttered in the ’60s.

The city reportedly has an agreement in place to sell the Market to a California development firm, and earlier this year council members granted Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s administration temporary oversight of the facility.

But instead of letting the theatre languish until the sale’s closure, the mayor pushed through nearly $80,000 in renovations to the venue over the past month to get it up and running, apparently unbeknownst to the council, the Toledo Blade reported. Councilors balked after learning that restoration funds were authorized in 13 contracts that fell below the $10,000 upper funding limits that would have required council approval.

"Why didn’t the administration notify council that they were planning to make major renovations to the Erie Street Market?" Councilman George Sarantou asked the paper. "I think we had a right to know because we asked for a business plan … and because the administration knows how deeply concerned we are about the Erie Street Market."

One of the contracts went to promoter Robert Croak’s Verso Group, which was paid $9,000 for "interior painting, new security pit and moving estimate," according to documents obtained by the Blade.

However, Croak told Pollstar that while some city council members may have voiced frustration over the authorization, who did the work and what was paid, it’s not Verso Group’s fight.

"At this point, other than the battles between city council and the mayor’s office, there is nothing on our end to be concerned with as far as being problematic with the venue," Croak said. "Verso Group was sought out to be the primary booking and marketing agent for the Civic Theatre. … We had nothing to do with who honors what contract for the renovations or does the work. That was strictly work that was taken care of by either the mayor’s staff or facility staff."

Verso Group did manage to get caught up in one aspect of the renovation conflict. The operators of Headliners, a club booked by Verso, reportedly accused the promoter of taking 24 stage lights from the club to install in the Civic Theatre. The allegation came after Verso moved two dates from Headliners to the new city-owned venue, the Blade reported.

Croak said the issue has been cleared up.

"Obviously, our intent when doing the Civic Theatre was not to pull out of Headliners altogether, but then due to the anger in what has basically been called an ugly divorce between Verso Group and Headliners operations, which is Purvar LLC, there were some accusations that simply were not true, and those have all been resolved now."

After undergoing painting and restorations to the floor and stage, the Toledo Civic Theatre opened with The Black Keys August 2.

"It’s a beautiful venue," Croak said. "It has great amenities, great load-in, and they’ve got it set right now as a 2,200-capacity room for general admission."

Upcoming dates on the books include Gaelic Storm and Senses Fail.