The Wichita City Council has approved a $6 million dollar loan to the Warren Old Town theater.
This morning's final vote was 6 to 0. Councilman Jim Skelton did not vote, citing a conflict of interest.
The Old Town theater has steadily lost money since it opened five years ago. The loan will go toward turning Oscar's Sports Bar into a sixth theater, upgrading to all digital projection and sound, as well as adding banquet space.
"In approving the requested loan this City Council is not only showing its
steadfast support for the Warren Theater it's showing its steadfast support
as well for a revitalized downtown," Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said.
Without the loan, the doors would close and the council said they believe it would be bad news for taxpayers, since the city already financed more than $9 million to buy all the land and build the streets, plaza and garage.
The building's property taxes go toward paying off that debt.
But many taxpayers are angry that the city is bailing out a very successful businessman.
"Our city is not a bank. The proposed loan is an inappropriate role for city
government. If the theater is facing problems it needs to solve those
problems without the help form a public treasury," Warren loan opponent John Todd said.
While acknowledging citizen anger, the council said that the Warren loan is a sound investment. The theater will use the money to upgrade the theater and the owners will guarantee to keep the credits rolling for at least a decade.