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updated: 6/26/2014 5:38 AM

Des Plaines Theatre owner considering offers

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  • Des Plaines Theatre owner Dhitu Bhagwakar says he is considering two proposals that could include selling the building or contracting with someone to manage the venue.

       Des Plaines Theatre owner Dhitu Bhagwakar says he is considering two proposals that could include selling the building or contracting with someone to manage the venue.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 

The owner of the Des Plaines Theatre says he is still mulling over two proposals from those interested in either buying or running the theater.

Dhitu Bhagwakar met with city officials Tuesday to review plans submitted by Elk Grove Village resident Jack Groat and an undisclosed party, who both responded to the city's request for interest and qualifications documents seeking potential operators or buyers of the 89-year-old venue.

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"We just met for the first time with the city yesterday, and we are learning more," Bhagwakar said Wednesday. "Everything is still on the table. None of the parties are out and none of the parties are in."

It's ultimately up to Bhagwakar whether to sell, enter into a partnership with an operator, or walk away from the proposals and retain ownership and management of the theater himself.

City officials in May sent their request to those in the theater business in an effort to help make the theater an economically viable venue. They shut down the theater in January after Bhagwakar failed to meet a city-imposed deadline to fix building code issues.

George Sakas, the city's director of community and economic development, said both proposers have a "good portfolio" of attracting acts and putting on events for a number of years. One of them has even run a theater in a suburban downtown.

But now Sakas and his staff are looking to get more detailed business plans from the two parties that would provide numbers on how much they would be willing to spend on fixing code problems and making other renovations, and how much public money they'd seek from the city.

Both parties, Sakas said, "mentioned in passing" they want public financing. A decision on whether to provide it is up to the city council.

With Bhagwakar's approval, Sakas said he would request more detailed information from the proposers next week.

"It's an ongoing process," Sakas said. "If we're going from A to Z, we're kind of at B."

Sakas said he thinks Bhagwakar "preferred" one of the proposals over the other.

Bhagwakar said "both groups are good groups," while emphasizing that discussions are still in the early stages. He did take exception with statements Groat made in an article in Tuesday's Daily Herald about trying to persuade Bhagwakar to sell the theater. Groat says he got out his checkbook and asked Bhagwakar to give him a price.

On Wednesday, Groat said when Bhagwakar refused to give an amount, Groat offered to write a check for $100,000. Bhagwakar said he thought Groat was joking.

"He kept saying he'd like to buy the theater, but I don't know if he knows what it takes," Bhagwakar said. "I'm sure he is in the business. I don't know, I'm a little confused. I don't know what to say. The only thing is he'd like to buy the theater. But he didn't make a legitimate offer."

Groat said he's been pursuing a purchase of the theater for months but is now operating on "a short time frame" and could be ready to withdraw from consideration.

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