The bitter feud between Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre's board of governors and its support guild took on a nasty new twist June 15, when the guild announced it had obtained a temporary restraining order halting the sale of 60 percent of the financially challenged theater to restaurateur Dickie Brennan, who plans to open his fourth French Quarter restaurant in the building.
The two sides will meet in court June 24, and the guild-backed group Save Le Petit will hold a rally June 21 at the Columns Hotel. "We urge all (Le Petit) subscribers from last season to attend, as well as all those who cherish the iconic landmark on the corner of Jackson Square," said guild president Jim Walpole. City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, in whose district the building stands, is scheduled to attend.
According to the theater's board, Le Petit currently has a $700,000 mortgage and "desperately" needs $1 million in immediate repairs, both of which would be addressed immediately with the Brennan infusion of cash.
Meanwhile, Gambit has obtained copies of emails about another offer — this one made June 13, four days after the Brennan deal was announced. The proposal was from former Le Petit artistic director Gary Solomon Jr. and his father, banker Gary Solomon Sr. In the email, the Solomons offered to buy the building's mortgage, "holding it for five years without payments. At the end of the fifth year, the debt would be forgiven one-fifth of the outstanding amount for each year up to five more years, provided the entire Le Petit Theatre facility ... continues to operate as a theater for the community." The Solomons' offer also included "100 percent of the building in the theater's control" and a five-year, $1.25 million endowment for "operating costs."
In a letter the next day regarding the offer, board member Michael S. Mitchell said the board had "decided to reject it for a variety of reasons," including the fact that management of the theater was not addressed ("Would the current board continue in that role?") and the "angel" investors were not identified by name ("We prefer to know who we're dealing with"). He also noted the Solomon offer wouldn't pay off the mortgage for 10 years, while the Brennan deal would retire the debt immediately. Mitchell's letter also said the offer was made "at the last possible moment," concluding, "Frankly, we are disinclined to enter into business dealings with someone who has recently threatened to sue us."
The theater's buyer, meanwhile, has been keeping a low profile. Brennan was not at the press conference announcing the sale, and his representatives have not returned emails or calls about his purchase of Le Petit or his plans for a restaurant there. — Kevin Allman