For 23 years, Kris McMurray was able to run the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre without any outside financial help, but with the theater being forcibly closed since March 13, he is seeking assistance for the very first time.
“We had a very successful business for 23 years, selling out houses and doing really well,” McMurray said. “The orders came in to shut down on March 13. As soon as that happened the box office was closed and the phone has not rung. We’re getting letters from people telling us how much they miss the cabaret.”
The cabaret, located in Berlin, will not be allowed to reopen until Connecticut enters the third phase of its statewide reopening initiative. This phase will likely not come until the end of the summer at the earliest, meaning McMurray has a minimum of two or three more months of rent and other bills to cover in order to keep the theater afloat before he could even consider opening the doors for a performance.
“You’ve got the rent, you’ve got the utilities, you’ve got to maintain royalty statuses with the shows that you’ve selected from New York, you still have to man the telephone, you still have to have the box office lines open,” McMurray said. “These are all expenses that people don’t really know about.”
This financial uncertainty has forced McMurray to reach out and ask for support. He sent out an email to everyone on the theater’s email list asking for donations regardless of size and for patrons to purchase gift cards as they await their next opportunity to see a show.
To make the situation more difficult, McMurray will be required to cut the theater’s capacity in half so that everyone in the audience can maintain a safe social distance. If the theater survives through the remainder of its closure, McMurray already decided he will not be raising prices and will learn to work with 50 percent of his normal revenue.
“We’re going to run on half profit and it’s going to be tough,” McMurray said. “We don’t want to disappoint our customers because there are so many people that enjoy what we do.”
McMurray is at the head of a business that does not qualify for any loan or grant programs that have been instituted by the government. He said he feels slighted and that the arts are being completely neglected during the pandemic.
“It’s terrible, it’s absolutely terrible,” McMurray said. “There’s no loan programs out there that can help this successful business [of] this many years sustain [itself] for the four, five or six months we have to be closed. So we’re looking to see if we can get some people to support and donate to keep the arts.”
Governor Lamont has labeled June 20 as his initial projection for when the state may begin to start phase two, assuming the pandemic does not spike back up once phase one begins, but has not specified what businesses will be included in phase two and has not even begun to acknowledge phase three. So for the time being, McMurray is forced to play the waiting game and hope he can crowdsource the help he is looking for.
“It just blows my mind that we could successfully run such a great place for so many years and then they just pull the rug right from under us like that,” McMurray said. “Tie our hands; we’re not allowed to do anything. When we come back, we understand, we’ve already had the place sterilized and cleaned, we have all of that in place. We’re going to follow guidelines and take tables out to make it safe and all that. It's a whole new world when we open up, but we want to try to stay alive to [be able to] open up.”
Anyone who would like to make a donation or purchase a gift card should visit ctcabaret.com