Yates Theater inches closer to reality as owners reach pact with Berkeley neighborhood group

A liquor license is still pending for the abandoned theater, which its owners hope to revive.

A community meeting  about the future of the Yates Theater in Berkeley, June 25, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A community meeting about the future of the Yates Theater in Berkeley, June 25, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

The building owner hoping to revamp and reopen the Yates Theater in Berkeley has signed an agreement with a local neighborhood organization to strengthen its case for a liquor license and move the project forward.

The seven-page “good neighbor agreement” between building owner Ari Stutz and Berkeley Regis United Neighbors was signed on Monday.

The agreement was signed just days before Stutz is scheduled to appear at a liquor licenses hearing before the Department of Excise and Licenses on Thursday. With a signed pact in hand, Stutz and his business partners have a stronger case for the license, as it shows an effort to bring locals to the table.

Developers have a plan to turn the Yates Theater into an upscale venue used for concerts, comedy shows and community events. The space can hold roughly 600 to 700 people and was originally built in 1926.

Residents voiced concerns about the new venue that the agreement is supposed to address. Some of the primary concerns from skeptical neighbors included worries about parking, traffic and noise.

Stutz credited some of the improved relationship to BRUN’s new leadership under President Niki Schwab and help from district Councilman Rafael Espinoza. Stutz said they looked at other neighborhood agreements around the city as they prepared to sign their own.

He said he wants the venue to “contribute” to the area, though he noted there were “sacrifices” owners made to make sure the facility was a right fit.

“I think that the (pact) we agreed to is one of the most restrictive agreements in the whole city, would be my guess,” Stutz said. “Our desire is not to make an unpleasant area to be. Our desire is to fit in and run a reasonable business that the neighborhood enjoys and wants to come to.”

Schwab said since neighbors starting voicing concerns and participating in community meetings with developers, the relationship between the two has turned positive.

“They heard a lot of the community’s concerns about security and noise and that kind of thing,” Schwab said on Tuesday. “That’s really where we tried to focus our changes to the GNA.”

The pact has four conditions on the yet-to-be approved liquor license, which address several concerns:

  • Places an 11 p.m. curfew on live music events held Sunday through Wednesday; 12 a.m. on Thursdays; and 1:30 a.m. on Fridays and Sundays.
  • Requires private security hired for musical performances, with security being in place an hour before a show begins and an hour after it ends.
  • Calls for designated outdoor smoking area.
  • Requires all doors, windows and curtains to be kept closed during musical performances.

“We are proud of the results,” Schwab said. “It’s never going to be a perfect agreement but this is easily one of the most comprehensive agreements in the city.”

The GNA also places several other regulations the community wanted to include, like placing some environmentally-friendly requirements for the venue. Among the other commitments in the agreement:

  • Hosting at least two community fundraisers benefiting neighborhood schools
  • Placing security where 44th intersects with Yates and with Xavier to ensure things stay orderly during musical events
  • Coordinate with ride-sharing companies to create a designated pick-up and drop off area
  • Perform trash cleanup sweeps within a 1-block radius of the venue
  • Use environmentally-friendly practices, including using biodegradable cups and utensils, composting foods, using energy efficient appliances, water-free urinals and banning the use of plastic straws.

Stutz said the theater sits in a unique spot, with places like Lakeside Amusement Park and Historic Elitch Garden Theater nearby.

“This is a whole area that’s built around this,” Stutz said, referring to entertainment. He added that he knows there might be a few people who aren’t happy with the outcome.

“I don’t expect to make everyone happy but I expect to run a good business,” he said.

Thursday’s hearing takes place at 6 p.m. on the second floor in the Webb Municipal Building at 201 West Colfax Ave.

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