Brewery owners interested in Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center

‘We are considering all options for the theater and accepting all presentations,’ deputy town supervisor says

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  • Photo courtesy of Tin Barn Brewing The owners of Tin Barn Brewing have expressed their interest in moving their business into the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center.

  • Photo courtesy of Tin Barn Brewing Tin Barn Brewing presented their plans for the Sugar Loaf PAC.


— Just a few weeks before voters decide whether the Town of Chester should borrow $1.1 million to buy the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center, brewery owners have expressed interest in moving their business there.

The town board planned to discuss the fate of the performing arts center at its Oct. 24 meeting. Check for updates.

Father-daughter brewery owners Dale and Lauren VanPamelen of Tin Barn Brewing pitched their idea for the Creamery Pond Road property at a town board meeting earlier this month. They said their first preference was to buy the property outright. They wish to keep the theater functioning as a theater, but in conjunction with an onsite brewery.

The VanPamelens said their vision for the complex is to keep the lower lobby, theater, and stage areas as they are. The production portion of the brewery would be housed near the loading dock, while the pavilion would become the new tasting room, with the upstairs lobby as overflow and private space.

“The benefit would be two distinct but compatible businesses sharing expenses,” the VanPamelens said in their presentation. “This greatly improves the chances of long term success, promoting continued tenancy, proper care of the facility and encouraging prosperity in the surrounding community.”

The VanPamelens have been working since 2016 to establish their brewery on a 20-acre plot on Lake Station Road in Warwick, on the border with Chester. But they now feel moving into the performing arts center may be a better fit.

“We also think it’s wise to house two revenue streams inside a facility this size, with the expenses it will generate,” Dale VanPamelen said in a letter to the town board. “Since inception it has been solely a Performing Arts Center with two attempts to make it work on its own.

“It’s a wonderful idea that simply requires an additional revenue stream to make it viable,” he continued. “Without that, it’s possible the town may end up supporting the venture, not reaping benefits from it.”

Town’s initial planWhen the town first announced its intention to buy the center from its current owners, the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, the town planned to continue running the facility as a theater as a contract operation. Steve Cirbus, a Chester resident and actor with a 25-year career in stage and film, presented his plan to revitalize the theater and hold plays, musicals, concerts, films, comedic acts, lectures, and educational programs there. The facility consists of a 688-seat main stage theater, the 240-seat Pavilion, and the 2,000-seat outdoor Wharf Theater.

The theater was the vision of Richard Logothetis, owner of Lycian Stage Lighting. It was built in 1992 and called the Lycian Centre for the Performing Arts. In 2012, the Kings Theatre Company took ownership of the Lycian Centre and changed the name.

But in 2015, the Mid-Hudson Civic Center bought the complex for $504,893. Since then, the number of productions at the theater has dwindled dramatically, with only the occasional event over the past few years.

Cirbus said he would like a typical season at the theater to offer six resident and seven guest productions, and an international film festival featuring approximately 85 performances.

‘Considering all options’Bob Valentine, the Chester Deputy Town Supervisor, said in a Facebook post this week that the town board is still deciding whatto do with the theater if voters approve the town’s purchase.

“The brewery was just a presentation to the town board,” Valentine wrote. “We are considering all options for the theater and accepting all presentations. No decision has been or will be made until after election.

“We have several other ideas to present all will include a robust theater/concert hall venue,” he continued. “Either town run with contract operation or leased venue. We want what is best for Sugarloaf and Chester and the most bang for the buck also allowing plenty of time for education and children's experience. Also community availability for special events.”

Valentine also said that the town’s purchase is “ a steal” and would have little to no tax implications.

In light of Tin Barn Brewing’s presentation, residents have asked about how the town’s purchase of the theater would affect tax rolls, and whether it would be better to have a private business take ownership.

While the town has said they would be open to leasing the complex, it is unclear if the town would consider selling the property. It is also unclear what operation costs would look like if the town were to run the theater.

Check for coverage of Wednesday night's town board discussion.

For more information, see related story, "We want to build a brewery at the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center."

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