Criterion Confab Nets Ideas, Criticism

BAR HARBOR — An open meeting hosted by the board of the Criterion Theatre and Arts Center on Sept. 23 drew ideas and optimism, while also highlighting the nonprofit group’s dire financial straits.


Approximately two dozen people turned out for the meeting, including representatives of local theater companies and several Cottage Street businesses. Many had concrete suggestions for turning the venue into a true community arts center, and professed a willingness to donate their time and talent.

Tom Burton, the theater’s new manager, said he was encouraged by the comments, and the potential that was on display. However, he also acknowledged that unless the group’s pressing financial needs are met quickly and completely, all of the positive energy likely will be for naught.

“If we don’t make a $15,000 payment by Oct. 1, the whole conversation is moot anyway,” Mr. Burton said.

The group faces eviction on that date if it cannot make the payment. The Criterion agreed to the terms in mid-August, as part of a wider agreement with building owner Erin Early Ward that staved off an eviction hearing.

As part of the August agreement, the group made a good-faith payment of $5,000 to Ms. Early Ward. The day after, however, theater manager Ben Smith cried foul, claimed the group had just depleted all of his operating cash, quit with no notice, and shut down the theater. The building has remained closed since.

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Fenceviewer Staff

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