Granada Theater owner Chuck Gomez appealed to The Dalles City Council on Monday for $3,000 to market the grand reopening the weekend of Nov. 10, but was denied that request.
Gomez said he has been contacted by several out of state entities interested in the rebirth of the 1929-era theater, which is located at the corner of Second Street and Washington, and he urged the city to capitalize on the situation to bring new business to The Dalles.
“This is a unique one-time opportunity to focus the entire region on the Granada,” Gomez said. “This advertising budget would be for the community’s good, so we can reach out to communities 400 to 500 miles away. This is a positive focus on downtown, and I hope the council supports this strongly.”
However, in a written staff report provided to the council, City Manager Julie Krueger said she would not recommend providing city funds for the advertising campaign. Krueger said the money would need to come from the city’s contingency fund.
“We are still working to achieve our financial policy of having a 10 percent ending (contingency) fund balance, which would be negatively impacted by funding additional requests through the year,” she wrote. “While this is good publicity for our community, I can’t recommend use of contingency funds. I recommend the council decline the funding request at this time.”
Councilor Russ Brown said he was sympathetic to the request from Gomez, but couldn’t justify the expenditure.
“I’d love to give you the money,” he said. “The problem we have, if we make an exception for you, is that it’s really difficult not to make the exception for everybody. So, it’s not a wise thing to do. We have a responsibility to take care of the city as well.”
“This is money to strengthen the downtown and for tourism, to help develop The Dalles,” Gomez responded. “This is a good, happy news event. This is going to be something unique in the community. We want the city to partner with us.”
“We are all delighted to see that corner of the downtown get changed,” said Councilor Taner Elliott. “But I have to agree with Russ. I don’t want to use contingency funds. We have a policy, and have to stick with it.”
Gomez and his partner, Debra Liddell, purchased the theater from the city in March for $60,000. Although the sale price was relatively low, as part of the deal, the new owners agreed to invest as much as $300,000 into refurbishing the theater inside and out.
Councilor Timothy McGlothlin said he supported Gomez’ request for marketing dollars.
“I see it as positive for our community.” he said.
However, Councilor Darcy Long-Curtiss said she did not think it was appropriate for Gomez to come to the city asking for additional funds.
“Urban Renewal and the city council have given quite a bit, and you are a for-profit business. Yet you still come back and ask for more,” she told him. “This business is going to make you money, and I do not appreciate you coming here and begging, hat in hand.”
Long-Curtiss was referring to the steep discount in the sale price of the building, well below the $385,406 paid by the city’s Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency in 2010.
“This is a world-class project for the community,” Gomez replied. “We are funding this project out of our personal funds. We’re not just begging for more, we’re putting our heart and soul into this.”
Mayor Steve Lawrence told Gomez he appreciated his enthusiasm and passion for the theater, which was “exactly what the Granada needed.” But Lawrence added it was apparent the council did not support the funding request.
“Maybe other businesses would donate (funds for advertising), and I’ll offer, if you want my endorsement, I’ll help you with that,” Lawrence told Gomez. “We all want it to succeed.”
McGlothlin also offered his support in securing outside donations.
Despite the fact the council did not approve his request, Gomez said he appreciated the offers from Lawrence and McGlothlin.
“I look forward to the mayor’s offer of support, and council member Tim McGlothlin’s second of the offer, as the true voice of the council,” Gomez said.
He said after the meeting that he took exception to the comments from Long-Curtiss during the meeting.
“I was disappointed a council member took that opportunity to make a personal attack on someone’s intentions. It was mentioned that I had come time and time again asking for support, when this was the very first time I asked for anything of that nature,” Gomez said. “You can't please all of the people all of the time. There are those folks who don’t now or will ever see the big picture. Oddly enough, wasn’t it that very council that was asking for community business and tourism support?”
Gomez said he would continue to promote the theater and boost the city of The Dalles, and said he hoped Long-Curtiss would do the same.
“It is now our goal to turn that negative kind of thinking around and make a theater friend out of a disgruntled council member,” Gomez explained. “Seeing the Granada now returned to her former beauty and glory sums it all up in most people’s minds. The contrary thinking is counterproductive to the downtown, businesses and the community as a whole.”