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August 18, 2019Cart

Business

by Fairfield County Business Journal
by FCBJ

Norwalk’s Wall Street Theater emerges from bankruptcy protection

Norwalk’s Wall Street Theater, beleaguered for the past year by a bankruptcy protection filing, a lawsuit and angry demands for millions of dollars by unpaid vendors, has emerged from Chapter 11 after successfully implementing its plan of reorganization. The move was unanimously supported by a vote of the creditors.

Last February, the theater filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Connecticut – less than a year after it reopened under the auspices of The Wall Street Theater Co., a nonprofit headed by President Suzanne Cahill.

Cahill told the Business Journal that settlements of the various claims against the company – including a lawsuit filed in Stamford Superior Court by White Plains-based GTL Construction, maintaining that the theater failed to pay $261,672 of $535,247 in work done at the site – were still being finalized.

That lawsuit alleged breach of contract, unjust enrichment, bad faith, fraud and convenience firing, after GTL was dismissed by Wall Street in February 2016 after providing demolition and other construction-related services during the site’s renovations.

In an email response to a Business Journal query, GTL President Angelo M. Monaco said he could not comment “as a settlement is in progress but it is not finalized as of this writing (Jan. 28).”

Another creditor, Danbury construction engineering firm The Morganti Group, had maintained that the theater had improperly withheld $1.52 million from it and its subcontractors. Morganti filed a mechanic’s lien against the theater last November.

Morganti did not respond to requests for comment on the latest developments.

Frank Farricker and Suzanne Cahill in 2017. Photo by Phil Hall

Other creditors include New Rochelle’s Queen City Carting, Glastonbury construction firm XTX Associates, and stage lighting equipment supplier Supertech and R&B Ceramic Tile and Floor Covering, both based in Wallingford.

At the time of its Chapter 11 filing last year, the theater said it was facing nearly $15 million in liabilities, against $150 of cash on hand and about $87,000 in its various bank accounts.

“We had to go to Chapter 11 because there was so much debt put on the organization,” Cahill said. “We really needed a financial adviser to come in and assist us, which led to the decision to use the system to become financially solvent for the future.”

“The theater emerges with a much stronger operating business, a significantly improved balance sheet and unified capital structure that will allow new opportunities for strategic growth and greater number of quality events ahead,” said adviser Ron Reuter, principal and managing director of RJ Reuter Business Consulting in Milford.

In addition, the theater was represented by legal counsel Jeffrey Sklarz of the New Haven law firm Green & Sklarz.

Throughout the turmoil, Wall Street – which has 690 seats and a 1,000-person standing room capacity – has continued to produce events. With bankruptcy behind it, Cahill said the company would increase its outreach to nationally known acts – the Marshall Tucker Band, Adrian Belew and Ghostface Killah are all booked over the next couple of months – along with Queen, Cream and Deep Purple tribute acts.

The venue will also continue with such self-produced shows as Connecticut’s Got Talent, as well as its Teen Theater program, led by Artistic Director Billy Blanks Jr.

“As a nonprofit, one of our goals is to teach kids about being active in theater, and how their future could involve theater management or the arts themselves,” Cahill said of the latter, noting that teen registration is about twice that of last year’s inaugural 25. “We have a lot of Broadway and off-Broadway performers who live in our area, and to be able to tap into that for educational purposes is quite a blessing.”

The emergence from bankruptcy is just the latest chapter in the site’s long history, which since its beginnings in 1915 as The Regent has gone through a number of name and ownership changes, including the Norwalk Theater, the Marquee, the Globe, and the Roxy; it is part of the Wall Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

“We wanted to do everything we needed to do to resolve the issues facing us,” Cahill said. “And we’ve come out of it stronger and more financially solvent.”