It's been a very long road to reach the Greenwich Odeum's second act – and there is still some distance yet to travel – but the theater has a reopening date. On Saturday, Dec. 1, the Odeum will open for the first time since 2008 for a Grand Reopening Silent Auction.
"It will give people an opportunity to see what it looks like," said Odeum board president Frank Prosnitz. He acknowledges it's hard to see that any progress has been made from the outside.
"A lot of stuff you don’t see from the street, but everything’s moving along and we’re pretty much on schedule inside," he said.
During a recent visit, while visible progress had been made – including a new stage wall, recovered seats, new floor and fresh paint in many places – it was equally clear there was a good amount of cleaning to be done as well as significant finish work in the front public areas.
Still, Prosnitz is optimistic. "We’ll be ready to open," he said.
The Greenwich Odeum was a space for live music and theater from the 1990s until 2007, when it closed because it did not have the money to comply with stringent fire codes put in place following the Station Nightclub fire.
The Town of East Greenwich put the Odeum back on the property tax rolls in 2009 since it had not been operating as a nonprofit since 2007. After an appeal from both Prosnitz and Steve Erinakes, who had initially turned the theater into the nonprofit, the Council gave the Odeum board some time to reorganize and see if it could raise enough money to reopen the theater.
Over the years, the Council granted several extensions, most recently in July, when it granted the theater until Oct. 31 to reopen to avoid having to pay back taxes. It's unclear whether or not the town considers the Dec. 1 silent auction a firm enough opening date.
"Our event will be Dec. 1. We expect to be in compliance well before that. Let's not confuse the event date with the 'reopen' date. The reopen only refers to our being in compliance," said Prosnitz.
Erinakes, whose family had owned several theaters in town, is no longer involved with the Odeum Corp. After board member Jeff Gladstone told the Town Council this summer that the Odeum Corporation owned the theater building, Erinakes said he would undertake his own title search of the property.
In a recent interview, Erinakes said that title search is not complete.
"The organization, the only two ways that they could acquire a piece of property is to buy it or have it donated and neither of those took place," he said. "I want them to acknowledge the fact that the mortgage is still in existence and we’ll take it from there."
Erinakes was referring to a $500,000 mortgage for the Odeum theater filed on Dec. 31, 1991, on which no payments have been made.
"We know who owns the Odeum," said Odeum board member Jeff Gladstone, who said it was the Odeum Corporation. "There's no question about it."
For Gladstone and for East Greenwich Town Manager Bill Sequino, who's on the Odeum board, their duty as board members is to the Odeum Corporation alone.
"Our responsibility, our fiduciary responsibility, is to the Odeum Corporation, not to Steve Erinakes," Sequino said earlier this month.
Frank Prosnitz, who worked for years alongside Erinakes on the Odeum, said he would welcome Erinakes back onto the Odeum board.
"Steven has been invaluable from the beginning," said Prosnitz. "I valued and cherished that relationship.... Would I like him back in this project? You bet."
There's no word yet on when the first concert will be held.