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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Future bidders of The Orpheum Theatre seek Council endorsement

Madison’s Common Council heard arguments Tuesday from two potential future owners of The Orpheum Theater, who are vying to settle the property’s debts, but council decided not to interfere with the traditional bidding process.

Originally built in 1926, the Orpheum is a monument from a different time, and is a far cry from its former glory days.

While the buying and selling of property is typically left to real estate agents, the landmark Orpheum Theater’s outstanding debts to the city, leftover from the previous owners, makes the changing of hands a Council issue.

The prospective buyer must first cover the cost of these entailed judgments before purchasing the Orpheum. However, with two parties interested in buying, the outstanding judgments become entwined in city revenues.

Gus Paras, owner of the nationally renowned Comedy Club On State, as well as Larry and Fred of Frank Productions, known for running Freakfest the past six Halloweens, have each pledged to fully reimburse the city for the judgments, including interest, according to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4. In addition, both parties have agreed to fully restore the venue to its refurbished and rehabilitated historic standing.

While the Franks have managed the Orpheum in the interim since its foreclosure, Paras was the first to offer to pay the judgments, and he secured the backing of Henry Doane, one of the previous co-titleholders of The Orpheum.

While the Orpheum will come up for public auction Nov. 5, for the city, this judgment reimbursement process has no such end date in sight.

“It could be six months from now, it could be six years from now until all this litigation is settled,” explained Deputy City Attorney Patricia Lauten.

In terms of favoring the Frank family or the Paras family, Madison’s Common Council decided to  “remain agnostic,” according to Verveer, and allow whichever party wins the Nov. 5 sheriff’s auction to incur the debts.

“This is truly a Solomon’s choice,” Verveer said, praising both of the family’s “virtues.”

“How blessed we are to have two really caring, committed, longtime Madisonian families wanting to ensure the heritage of Madison,” he said.

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