D&R Theatre to re-open

D&R Theatre owner John Yonich announced Friday he will re-open the downtown Aberdeen theater sometime next month. Backstage Espresso and Scoops ice cream shop, which Yonich also owns, will re-open Monday.

“We’ll go back at this full bore,” Yonich said.

On March 2, Yonich surprised the whole community with his announcement that he was closing the theater he spent his own money remodeling. He cited frustration with city, county and state government and the stress of running the business. The theater, which hosts live acts, was widely seen as a catalyst to downtown redevelopment and Yonich has also developed other shops in the neighborhood.

He had a wood wall erected in front of the theater. That came down Friday afternoon. Some seats removed from the theater shortly after its closure will be re-installed, along with some new laser lights.

“It’s an exciting time to know it’s going to open again, and we’ll continue to work with him, within reason, to help him make a success out of it,” Mayor Bill Simpson said Friday.

After the closure, many people voiced support for what Yonich did with the theater. As a thank you for the support from the Grays Harbor community and the region, Yonich said the first show back would be “low-cost or free.”

Details were still being finalized, but the show was expected sometime early next month.

Yonich said he has received thousands of emails, cards and messages of thanks and support.

“I wasn’t looking for a popularity contest. I wasn’t trying to hang the city, the city’s been fine. … It was just a lot of different things,” Yonich said.

“I had no idea the power of social media,” he added with a laugh.

On March 6, about 150 people gathered outside the theater to cover the temporary wall with hand-written messages, mostly of thanks, although some criticized the government bureaucracy Yonich cited as his reason for closing.

“Just wow. That’s all I can say,” Yonich said. “It’s touching. I don’t know what the word would be. My family and I had no idea. It’s not my theater, it’s everyone’s theater.”

“It’s just a theater, but it’s a lot of community pride,” he added.

Simpson said many of the people who had contacted the city concerned about the closure hadn’t actually been to any shows.

“If you really want to support someone, go to the theater,” he said.

Yonich said there was no grand plan around his closure of the theater — the frustration of dealing with many levels of government just came to a head.

“I truly meant it. I was done,” he said. “I just hit a wall. … At that day, that moment, I just had enough.”

He said he was surprised by the ripple effect the closure of the theater and coffee shop had. Yonich said he was contacted by hotels, restaurants and bars throughout the area telling him the D&R’s closure had affected their business.

Since Yonich announced the closure, a variety of government officials from the city to the state have reached out to find out what they could do to help. Some were frustrated he didn’t approach them before the closure, but Yonich said the issues weren’t coming from any single entity.

Now, Yonich said, he feels he’s been heard and is confident they can work things out together.

“They put an olive branch out there and said they would work with me to resolve my issues,” he said.

Largely his issues with government agencies, he says, have centered around advice from inspectors and what he feels is an uneven application of some taxes and codes.

“I just want to read the rule and we all do the same rule,” he said.

In response to a separate issue, Yonich said he’s had a number of businesses come forward promising to buy season tickets, and other individuals volunteering to help in running various elements of the theater. Yonich primarily lives in Bellevue, and he said the day-to-day operations can be a challenge.

“I’ve got some people in the community here now that are going to help promote the theater,” he said.

Yonich said he’s also been pressed by various booking and talent agencies he had been in talks with before the closure, and now several shows have been officially scheduled.

In May, Burton Cummings of The Guess Who has been booked, and Three Dog Night is set to play in June. British 80s rock band Whitesnake, blues musician Taj Mahal, country duo Montgomery Gentry and country singer and American Idol Scotty McCreery are also set to perform.

Asked if fans needed to worry about another closure, Yonich said has more enthusiasm than he’s had in a long time. “Anything I do, I do 110 percent. I will do everything in my power to make this thing a go,” he said. “If the city, county and state do what they say they’re going to do, which should be their job anyway, we won’t have a problem.”