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Published: Thursday, 11/2/2000

Dinner theater reopens with new managers

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The former SeaGate Restaurant and Dinner Theater in the Owens-Illinois building, One SeaGate, reopened yesterday as the RiverVue Restaurant and Dinner Playhouse.

Its reorganized management team, Connie Hoffmann and Rick Hagg, said they hope to operate at least through the end of the year and perhaps beyond. Hoffmann and Hagg said they plan to do 27 shows on weekends in November and December and to keep the restaurant open for weekday lunches but not dinners.

The restaurant, once an upscale hub for downtown wheelers and dealers, was closed Oct. 7 for a week of renovations, but mounting bills and a dispute among owner Jim Bassett, Hoffmann, and Hagg kept the doors shut until yesterday.

Hoffmann and Hagg said they want to sublease the restaurant from Bassett, owner of the SeaGate Dinner Theatre Co., Inc., which opened in fall, 1999.

“We have other people who didn't want this place to close down,” said Hoffmann. She said she is a partner in the new Phoenix Corp. along with Hagg and a few other silent investors, who will continue operations.

The restaurant's landlord is Toledo Properties, an Owens-Illinois operation that manages the waterfront glass building and Levis Park in Perrysburg.

“We're working with them to make a smooth transition out,” said Frank Butler, manager of Toledo Properties. “We're literally in the midst of this discussion.”

Bassett, as leaseholder, is the responsible party, and he has not given Toledo Properties an approved sublease, Butler said. Asked whether rent has been paid, Butler had no comment.

However, Butler said he would like to see the reorganized operation fulfill its commitments for holiday performances. He is looking for other tenants. “A restaurant seems to be the most obvious use for the space, but I'm willing to think outside the box,” he said.

Bassett could not be reached for comment.

If the Hoffmann-Hagg team is unable to continue at the current location, they said they will consider another downtown Toledo venue.

Financial problems surfaced last summer when the SeaGate Dinner Theater Co., Inc., was sued by Huntington National Bank, which said it was owed $59,000. Malcolm Meats of Northwood sued for $6,655 plus interest it said it was owed. “We've had a rough summer,” Bassett conceded at the time.

Hoffmann said Bassett had talked about closing for months. “We've lived day to day,” she said.

Bassett also ran the Westgate Dinner Theater from 1989-1991.

In the O-I building restaurant's latest incarnation, walls have been moved to create a backstage area, a large stage, and tables and chairs for 175.

A holiday show, Ginger Snaps and Holly Berries, begins Nov. 10. Hagg described it as a variety show with music, dance, and comedy, featuring Johnny Ginger, a comedian and impersonator, and several others.



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