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Owner of an off-Broadway theater, a tavern struggling to keep its historic business open – CBS New York


NEW YORK (CBSNew York) – The pandemic has hit the theater industry hard, and now a well-known East Village location with a rather long history is in danger of closure.

Lorcan Otway struggles to keep the legendary property he owns at 80 St. Marks Place.

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“It’s like losing a part of myself,” he said.

It is home to a popular theater off Broadway and the William Barnacle Tavern. It started during the Prohibition era as a sweatshop.

“From 1922 to 1933, everything was under wraps,” Otway told CBS2’s Dave Carlin. “They would let you go through the butcher’s shop into an alley that you can’t see from the street… You knocked on the door that was here and a little hatch opened.”

Before the family owned Theater 80 in Otway, it was a popular jazz club.

“John Coltraine played here and Thelonius Monk,” he said. “In 1964 we started building Theater 80 and we opened with“ You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. “”

Up front there is a who’s who of entertainment over the years with signatures and concrete prints. One photo shows Joan River with cement on her hands, one of several signed celebrity photos in the lobby.

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Despite this rich history, Theater 80 is on the verge of becoming another victim of the pandemic.

“We had to take out a mortgage right before COVID hit, and the state then shut us down for two years,” Otway said. “But what they didn’t do was protect us from paying off our debt.”

Otway, who declared bankruptcy, said a company was trying to auction off the building under him.

“We are looking for a $ 10 million loan from the state,” he said.

“Their difficulties are not due to their fault,” said New York State Senator Brad Hoylman.

Hoylman and other elected officials want the governor to step in and help Theater 80 get a loan.

“I think there’s really good evidence that New York State should step in and make sure the 80’s theater survives and reopens,” Hoylman said.

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Otway says he will repay the state and do whatever it takes to preserve a crucial piece of his personal history and the history of New York City.


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