One year after moving in, Warren's ambitious entertainment 'hub' has been evicted

By Ethan Hartley
Posted 4/24/24

Served with an eviction notice following two months of missed rent payments and a Sixth District Court ruling, the closure of 28 Market St. in Warren leaves multiple groups picking up the pieces and wondering what went wrong with such a promising vision.

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One year after moving in, Warren's ambitious entertainment 'hub' has been evicted


A story fit for the Shakespearian stage — complete with despair, hope, triumphant elation and a sudden, stark tumble back to a grief-stricken square one — has once again unfolded at the former 2nd Story Theatre at 28 Market St. in Warren.

Numerous people reached out to this publication in the past week with the same two questions: Was that a chained lock barring entry from the Market Street entrance of the new theater space that opened alongside In Your Ear’s new store? And is that an eviction notice in the window?

The short answer is yes, on both fronts.

The theater space that opened for such a short period of time that it never received an official name, and only had one performance grace its completely renovated performance area, is now unlikely to see another show any time soon — if ever — after a 6th District Court judge ruled in late March in favor of the building’s landlord, who filed to evict all occupants of the building in February after court documents indicated they had missed one month of rent.

By the time the decision was handed down on March 21, the total judgment to be paid to the landlord, real estate developer Brian Thibeault (of ZJBV Properties, LLC., out of Manchester, N.H.), was $42,008.65 for two months of missed rent along with associated legal fees and one quarter of property taxes.

The defendant in the eviction case is David Silva, operating under the corporate entity “Beneath The Garden, LLC”, which was used to enter the lease agreement in April of 2023; a five-year deal with an option to renew after five years.

It gets a bit complicated, but Silva and his LLC was technically the sole lessee of the building, with In Your Ear Records setting up shop in a portion of the space as an informal partner and agreeing to assist with the $15,500 monthly rent payment. A separate venture, a bar where people could grab a drink and listen to vinyl, located adjacent to the retail shop, had also been opened on the premises under the same “Beneath The Garden” corporate structure (doing business as “The Up-Side Tavern”).

Silva, along with partners Chris Zingg, the owner of In Your Ear Records, and Taylor Benton, a Washington native who was tapped to run the vinyl bar, comprised the trio of investors looking to turn the former 2nd Story into a bigger, better version of its prior form; a place for community theater, local musicians and performing acts, lovers of vinyl and all things artistic to coalesce in an entertainment hub in the middle of downtown Warren.

But that plan, by multiple accounts, never fully got off the ground. And in the words of one of the investors, it may have been doomed from the start.
As a result, multiple groups with different hopes for the building find themselves picking up the pieces, figuring out what to do next, and wondering where it all went wrong.

The show must go on?
Nobody was more surprised to learn of the eviction than Dena Davis, Artistic Director of Arts Alive!, the Barrington theatrical nonprofit that had led a brainstorming effort a year ago to rejuvenate the former 2nd Story Theatre and in just a couple weeks was supposed to launch a four-show, teenager-starring run of “Chicago” within the new theater space.

“I had a call last Thursday letting me know that the building was officially closed and out of business. We were due to have a rehearsal that evening,” she said in an email, adding that the building had officially been inaccessible since April 15.

“We (Arts Alive!) had a signed Memorandum of Understanding to use the space for our production of ‘Chicago’ as well as insurance and all other necessary protocol as a community ‘partner’,” she continued. “We have since learned that the leaseholders never had permission to allow anyone else to use the space.”

Arts Alive! Now finds themselves stuck in the middle of a landlord/tenant dispute with a clock ticking in the background and their property stuck behind locked doors.

“From our perspective we are an innocent party in the middle of rehearsals for an incredible youth production made up of actors from Barrington, Bristol, Warren and beyond,” Davis said. “Our set, props and equipment are locked in the building and we have not been allowed access to retrieve our items, which we need for our production, which now goes up on May 11.”

Davis said they were in the midst of relocating the show to the Barrington Middle School auditorium, but that will require the group to refund all tickets already purchased and ask attendees to re-purchase tickets for the new event.

“We are trying to pivot and teach our actors that this is a lesson in resilience and perseverance and that ‘the show must go on’ — and it will. But we are a devastated community,” she said. “Ourselves, and Bristol Theatre Company, put many hours, and money, into renovating the space to bring this theatre back to the East Bay community. We brought volunteers — students and adults from our organizations — and a lot of sweat and tears into the space.”

“We have all been betrayed.”

Marie Knapman, Chairperson of the Bristol Theatre Company’s Board of Directors, added her own feelings of frustration for the unhappy ending.

Their company was set to put on “Beauty and the Beast” in June and was already looking forward to another run of “Christmas Carol”, which sold out seven shows this past holiday season (the only show seen by audiences in the new theater space).

“I’m really disappointed. We were very hopeful that we would be able to use this great space and that great things were going to happen, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case,” she said. “And we’re back to searching for a home, again, for the umpteenth time.”

A mid-Market Street’s Dream
Reached on Monday afternoon, Chris Zingg lamented how things went south so quickly.

“I’m not going to point fingers. With all best intentions, the building was untenable…I think there were a lot of factors involved that led us to where we are right now,” he said. “And I’m talking about literally a dozen different things I could point to.”

Included among that list was the Washington Bridge closure, the bar concept not generating sufficient business, and the high cost of rent to simply exist in the space.

“In the last couple of months, we were victims of a decreasing attendance. We never reached the level we had expected,” he said. “Attendance at the bar decreased, expenses were very high, and it began to affect In Your Ear as well. Then what happened, happened.”

While Zingg said he believed in the whole concept of the building, he also admitted it was a lofty goal to pull off without a lot of guaranteed revenue to cover the associated overhead involved.

Part of that, he said when asked, had to do with their offer to the three local theater companies (the two already mentioned, plus the Providence-based Spectrum Theatre Ensemble) who would utilize the space. In exchange for helping to fix up the theater (and put in an emergency fire exit door at their own expense, in the case of Bristol Theatre Company), they would not have to pay to use the space, and wouldn’t need to share revenue from ticket sales.

“Perhaps foolishly, our benevolence, which was to not charge them a penny, might have been another reason,” he said. “These theater groups were trying to figure out how they would rent the building, and we had already signed the lease. So once that happened we were like, let’s support these guys, and we did. To give them credit, there was sweat equity that went in, but we never took a penny from any of the theater groups.”

Other revenue-generating concepts, like bringing in different musical acts — supposedly no big issue for Silva, who claimed to have wide reaching connections from his time working for big-name record labels — never came to fruition.

Zingg said In Your Ear would be moving its inventory back to their established spot on Main Street, and that as far as he could tell, the ambitious dream that so recently had so many people hoping for something truly special was all but over.

It’s a fact he found difficult to swallow as well.

“The tragedy is the fact that once again, Warren is going to lose the kind of cultural center that everyone would like to see succeed,” he said. “The support from the community had been great, at least verbally…We’ve had nothing but positive comments and regrets. That’s the tragedy. That once again something that could have been potentially great for Warren is going to be a vacuum. I think it will be very difficult for somebody else to step in and make it work the same way that we tried to do.”

Neither David Silva nor his attorney, Kevin Heitke, returned a phone call asking for comment on this story as of press time. Carl Levin, an attorney representing Brian Thibeault, was out of the office on vacation and was unable to respond to a request for comment by press time.

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