PORT TOWNSEND — That cannot happen. No way. So Ned Herbert said of the idea that the Rose Theatre would go under.
Herbert, co-owner of The Pourhouse brewpub about a mile away from the downtown theater, was among the 1,400 contributors who this past week sent the Rose rocketing past its GoFundMe goal of $160,000.
Ten days ago, the downtown Port Townsend cinema announced its dire straits: no reopening in sight due to statewide restrictions. On gofundme.com, owner Rocky Friedman said his three-screen theater at 235 Taylor St., which includes the snug Starlight Room, not only needed support for basic expenses but also for major renovations to make it safe post- pandemic.
To his astonishment, flocks of donors from all over the region met the goal last Wednesday — and kept going. By noon Saturday, supporters had pledged $177,733 toward survival of the 113-year-old theater, a former vaudeville house.
There’s still no opening date for the Rose and Starlight, shuttered for six months now. But Friedman said the fundraising triumph means he can pay his bills, begin the process of renovation, and establish an emergency fund for the Rose’s future.
Herbert, who had to keep The Pourhouse closed for 11 weeks, empathized with Friedman: “We want Rocky to feel that he’s not alone,” he said, noting that having your business immobilized has effects both economic and emotional.
Donations of tens, hundreds and thousands of dollars continued coming this weekend, from people inside and outside Port Townsend. Trisa Katsikapes is one from Port Angeles who remembers seeing her first foreign films at the Rose, along with independent releases under the chandeliers at the Starlight Room.
“Come on, I saw ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ there,” added Katsikapes, whose family is Greek.
“There aren’t words to properly express how I feel right now,” Friedman wrote on Rosetheatre.com, adding he never dreamed the fundraising effort would ignite such a response.
“Your open hearts will see us through the winter,” he said.
“Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”
Herbert, for his part, said The Pourhouse has been fairly busy; it has a patio with plentiful space for social distancing.
“People say, ‘We’re glad you made it through.’ But nobody’s really made it through yet,” he said.
Herbert emphasized, however, that he never hesitated to answer Friedman’s call for help. Some nine years ago when he and partner Virginia Marston were preparing to open The Pourhouse, the Rose’s owner encouraged them — and gave them a break on a year of on-screen advertising.
“We are all connected,” Herbert said.
“That’s the vibrancy of this town.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.