The folks at Phoenix Theater had been planning to do some updates to their 100-year-old building. Now they absolutely have to.
“I’d been talking to my business partner Eric [Cohen] about how we really needed new windows,” explains Arts Nest executive director Jenna Papke. “But this wasn’t the way to do it.”
On Halloween morning, someone in an SUV drove into the theater at 2605 Hennepin Avenue. It’s still unclear when the crash happened, but a photographer for KSTP managed to snap a pic of the scene around 2:30 a.m. Papke got a call around 4 a.m.
“A cop car was driving down the street and saw [the SUV] plowed into the building,” she says. “But I haven’t gotten any details as to how she ended up in a building in the middle of the street.”
Thankfully, no one was in the theater at the time, and Papke was told that the driver was conscious and talking on the scene. But the damage to the Phoenix was extensive. The crash flung the doors off their frame and into the lobby. The entire entrance is gone. Four windows have been destroyed, and it’s unclear if the others can be saved. And that’s just the damage that can be seen; there might be structural damage, too.
Fortunately, Phoenix Theater has insurance. The building’s landlord has policies that cover the physical damage while Arts Nest, the organization that handles the theater’s operations, has insurance for loss of business income. But until the insurance companies access the damage and cut checks, the Phoenix is in limbo.
To cushion them during this period, the theater has set up a GoFundMe. Incredibly, they’ve raised $5,030 so far—just shy of their $5,500 goal. They also hope to raise funds during Give to the Max Day, which is on November 17.
“It’s very encouraging and heartwarming to have the community come out for us like this,” says Papke. “It could take forever for the insurance money to come, so this is an important bridge. If the insurance does cover everything, our plan is to use the money to add a power-assist door for accessibility.”
Other theaters are helping out, too. While Phoenix had some shows cancel with plans to reschedule, they were able to relocate two events. This weekend, Open Eye Figure Theatre is hosting a staged reading of a new musical and on Saturday night Huge Theater hosts this month’s Minnesota Drinking Show, the long running late-night comedy series by Shadow Horse Theatre.
In the meantime, the Phoenix is waiting for money and prepping for repairs. Funnily enough, their construction company is no stranger to working on buildings that have been plowed into by cars, buses, and other types of vehicles.
“I called Flannery Construction because they’ve done work for us in the past. They’re also the ones who have been working on Acadia,” she says. “We had a little bit of a laugh, because apparently we were the second business that morning calling in about a car attacking them.”
While the windows should be quick to replace, the doors could take as much as six months, so they anticipate having to use a temporary solution.
“We’re just hoping we can reopen by the beginning of December,” says Papke.
Check out pics of the damage below.