More financial details needed before council considers forgiving loan to Palace Theatre

The Palace Theatre remains financially ‘solid’ according to its board chair, despite being closed for most of the pandemic, and seeking forgiveness of a loan from City Hall.

“We are solid, we are secure. We have just completed our annual audit and it had a positive outcome,” Chair Kelli Gough tells CTV News.

In 2015, a $100,000 interest-free loan was provided by council to repair the historic theatre after it suffered significant water damage.

Monthly payments are $417, but have been deferred by council since April 2020.

As the theatre begins to reopen after a year and a half of pandemic dormancy, a political push is underway to forgive the remaining $78,750.

Gough says the financial relief would aid reopening, “We have urgent needs (with) the building, it would also potentially enable us to hire some staff to help us because during the COVID (pandemic) we had to dismiss all of our staff.”

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Ward 4’s Jesse Helmer expressed frustration when colleagues suggested getting more information during budget deliberations later this year.

“They’ve been shut for almost two years. they don’t have a lot of money to pay us back, this would really help them. That’s the business case,” asserted Helmer.

Council referred the issue to civic administration for more financial details ahead of an upcoming Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee meeting.

The Palace Theatre was also given another 180-day extension to its loan repayments

“We’re blessed in London to have a really dynamic arts and entertainment sector,” says Councillor Steve Lehman two days later.

Lehman says he was hesitant to forgive the loan without more detailed financial information.

“It’s important for me to see in this case, more financial information than we had at that time,” he says.

Terms of the interest-free loan include the Palace Theatre providing its financial statements to city hall by September 30 each year.

The city treasurer says she has not yet received those documents.

Gough says the documents are expected to be approved at a board meeting this week, and then submitted to city hall.