Abbey looks at new owners for 2013

Venue would continue music, movies under new ownership

The Abbey Theatre will not close its doors Jan. 31 2013, despite many rumors to the contrary, but it will be under new ownership.

The downtown entertainment venue shares a building on College Drive with fellow tenants Randy’s and Cuckoo’s Chicken House & Waterin’ Hole. Chuck Kuehn bought the theater in January 2009 with his partner Doug Sitter and bought out Sitter’s share later that year. He leases the space from Albuquerque resident Charles Bates for $2,700 per month. The current lease for the Abbey expired Oct. 31, but Kuehn, who has been undergoing treatment for lymphoma, received a three–month extension from Bates to stay in business through January. Kuehn said Bates has told him that a new lease/renewal will not be offered and Kuehn must vacate Jan. 31.

Bates did not return a call for this article, but Michelle Redding, who owns Cuckoo’s with her husband, Chris, confirmed rumors that the Reddings are interested in taking over the Abbey lease when it expires Jan. 31. But those same rumors, many of which have circulated on Facebook, incorrectly assume that the space would be used for a Cuckoo’s expansion.

“No one is taking the Abbey away from anybody,” Redding said. “If we’re lucky enough to get the space on the lease, we want to continue with music and also do movies and offer it as a community venue like it used to be run. We think of it as an institution.”

Redding said she spoke with Bates on Thursday. Although he declined to speak with The Durango Herald, he gave Redding permission to say that there is no lease in place after Jan. 31, and he is talking with different parties, the Reddings being one of them. She said another party is interested in assuming the lease, also with the intention to keep it as a music venue.

Kuehn said his personal health situation is improving, and he wanted to sign a new lease to begin in February. He said he is considering legal action against Bates, but has not made a decision.

While Redding’s announcement dispels many rumors, many more questions remain unanswered until a new lease is signed and Bates, Kuehn and any new tenant work out several details. Among them: Who owns the rights to the Abbey Theatre name, projection and sound equipment? It also leaves the status of the annual Snowdown Follies simulcasts in limbo, as the screenings would happen Feb. 1 and 2, the first two days of a new occupancy.

ted@durangoherald.com