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Paramount theater in-limbo status worries fans, Peekskill business owners
While the Paramount Center for the Arts' operations remain suspended, local fans and business owners are wondering if and when the Peekskill theater will reopen — especially now that theater staff has been dismissed.
Jason Schoeller, a resident of Brookfield, Conn., contacted Newsday Westchester after reading about the halt in operations, saying he was unable to secure a refund for a Tower of Power show that was scheduled for Oct. 14 at the venue.
"I want a refund," Schoeller wrote, exclusively in capital letters. "They never delivered the services that I paid for."
During a follow-up phone conversation with Schoeller Monday night, he said he still hadn't received a refund, and worried that he might not ever get one.
"I purchased 24 tickets over a three-month span, and it basically came down to $55 apiece," he said. "Everybody could be out some good money."
Lisa Reiss, who'd been serving as the Paramount's executive director prior to the suspension of operations, told Newsday Westchester Tuesday via email that she no longer works for the theater.
"There is no staff at the Paramount any longer," she wrote. "We are / I am unemployed."
In an Oct. 4 statement that was issued to the press and posted on its website, the nonprofit theater apologized "for the inconvenience we have caused to our members," and to ticket-holders for "shows that will have to be cancelled or delayed." The phone number for the Paramount, which once resulted in a busy signal, now offers a similar voicemail message on a loop, and no opportunity to leave a message.
The Paramount website has posted just two notices since that statement: An Oct. 11 update announced the results of a raffle drawing that had been slated for Dec. 22. An Oct. 19 update detailed the change of venue for Bernie Williams' Oct. 20 benefit show, which was moved to the White Plains Performing Arts Center.
The Peekskill venue had also been expected to host concerts ranging from R&B group En Vogue (Nov. 17) to the Pink Floyd cover band Dark Star Orchestra (Nov. 20).
On Newsday Westchester's Facebook page, Peekskill resident Marianne Picariello worried about the state of the theater, calling it a "Peekskill landmark." And Spring Valley resident Roxanne Wilson expressed similar concerns about the state of the Paramount. "Anytime you lose the arts, [it's] sad," Wilson wrote.
Fans aren't the only ones weighing in on the state of the Paramount. Peekskill business owners' reactions to the situation have ranged from concerned to frustrated.
Rich Credidio co-owns 12 Grapes Music & Wine Bar, a restaurant on Division Street about two blocks away from the Paramount. He said his business has already felt the impact of the theater's suspended operations.
"Whenever the Paramount had a show, 12 Grapes, and most of the Peekskill restaurants, would be filled with pre-theater diners," he wrote in an email to Newsday Westchester Tuesday morning. "The weekend before they closed, Amos Lee was performing and we had over 70 diners at our 6 p.m. seating. We don't normally see those kind of numbers in the early part of the evening."
Arne Paglia, who owns the Division Street Grill just footsteps away from 12 Grapes, called the Paramount "beautiful," but said his business has not seen significant changes in recent weeks.
"The Paramount has not operated consistently for the last 14 years, so for the short term there has been no impact [since operations were suspended]," wrote Paglia Tuesday morning in an email. "I am very optimistic that the city [of Peekskill] will lease the facility ... and that it will then run properly."
Paglia, who went on to call the venue a "vital part of the Westchester County cultural scene," said he was confident that it would be operational again.
"We can't let such a beautiful theatre go to waste," he said.
Sunny Cover, the owner of the Peekskill Coffee House, said she has a strong customer base, one that remains consistent, no matter what is going on at the theater across the street.
She added, however, that "When the Paramount was open and had performances, it was, of course, a boost to our daily sales — and what business owner would not want that?"
Cover said the suspended operations are a "huge disappointment," adding she wished its board had been clearer about its financial woes before shutting down. "The theater was obviously mismanaged, and instead of making attempts to correct the issues they used bandages and bled themselves dry," she said.
But Reiss, the former Paramount director, defended her staff's actions via email.
"A lot of people will say the theater was mismanaged, etc., but I encourage you to look deeper — many [nonprofit] theaters are suffering," Reiss wrote. "The Paramount is not alone in a much larger crisis that faces performing arts centers all across the country."
The Paramount's announcement to suspend operations was posted less than three weeks after the theater's Sept. 15 red-carpet gala fundraiser, which attempted to raise $300,000, and exactly one month after the Sept. 4 reopening of The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester.
Back at the Peekskill Coffee House, Cover said she envisions the Paramount returning at some point, with the hope of it being "bigger and better" and "managed correctly" under new ownership.
"It is a beautiful, historical landmark and if a company like Bowery Presents could get their hands on it, it would be a huge success," Cover said. "This area is filled with a thriving young generation that doesn't want to go see Boyz II Men."
Reiss said that she hopes the Paramount will return to form someday, and that the city it calls home will help make it happen.
"I hope Peekskill makes the right decisions for the Paramount," she wrote.
When do you think the Paramount will reopen — if you think it will reopen at all? Vote in the poll below and let us know what you miss most about the Paramount in the comments.