City plans to boot Next Theatre from Noyes

New seats the city installed last year in the auditorium Next uses at Noyes.

Evanston officials will ask aldermen Monday to approve plans to wrap up Next Theatre Company's 34-year residence at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center because the theater group is more than two years behind on rent payments.

In a memo prepared for Monday's Human Services Committee meeting, Parks Director Joe McRae says Next owes more than $76,000 in back rent and "a suitable repayment plan and payment of rent going forward cannot be achieved."

The theater group's most recent lease agreement with the city expired last January, and as a condition of extending the lease through next May, the city is proposing that the theater company be required to sign a promissory note to repay the back rent over a five year period once it vacates the Noyes space.

Next, on its website, describes itself as producing "socially provocative, artistically adventurous work."

Its 34th season, scheduled to run from Sept. 27 through May 10, features four plays.

Last summer aldermen voted to spend $46,609 to install new seats in the 145-seat former elementary school auditorium used by Next.

Administration and Public Works Committee minutes indicate that no mention was made at that time that the theater group was already a year behind on rent payments.

At the meeting, Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, according to the minutes, called the new seats "a great investment." She said Next was a theater with "a strong footing and a great future."

Rob Andolman, Next's board president, said the theater attracted almost 8,000 patrons in its 2012-13 season and was "a magnet destination artistically and economically for Evanston."

Mayor Tisdahl along with aldermen Mark Tendam, Peter Braithwaite and Jane Grover, testing out the new theater seats on a tour last October.

The seats were install by last October when aldermen went on a citywide bus tour to highlight capital improvement needs.

Comments

What did they know and when did they know it?

Missing rent for more than two years?  Somebody at City Hall goofed up. This mistake or series of mistakes (or intentional omissions) has resulted in taxpayers paying to subsidize a business while not receiving the planned revenue from that business. 

Did staff tell the City Council members before that vote that the theater company was behind on its rent?  

If yes, why didn't the City Council discuss that fact in the deliberations or otherwise make it known to the public?

If no, why didn't the staff give the City Council all of the relevant information on subsidizing this business?

What the truth?  We have a right to know because this information should effect either who I vote for as an alderman or who the city keeps as employees or both. 

And haven't we been down this road with deadbeat tenants before?  As I recall, a few years ago, the city failed to collect rent from some residential tenants and it went on for years before anything was done. As I also recall, the rent charged was below market, too. Weren't taxpayers promised that staff and the City Council would do better after that as far as collecting rent owed the City?

How hard would it be for staff to give a report to the City Council once a month listing which tenants were behind on their rent that month?  Or at least every quarter?