PORT ANGELES — Ambitious restaurateur Jake Oppelt’s plans to revive the shuttered Lincoln Theater as a performance venue are coming to life more than two years after the downtown moviehouse went silent — and despite the emergence of efforts to build a similar facility just five blocks away.
Workers from J Oppelt Development &General Contracting LLC, newly formed this fall, began gutting the 132 E. First St. century-old moviehouse three weeks ago, Oppelt said last week as he already envisioned opening night.
A confident Oppelt said Friday he’s working on bringing hip-hop artist and Grammy winner Macklemore of Kent for the theater’s first show next summer.
Oppelt is co-owner of Next Door Gastropub a block away and, across the street from that, the vacant Maurices building, which he said he plans to turn into a “boutique hotel.”
He said drawings are being worked on that will guide the transformation of the Lincoln, which closed in March 2014, into a music and theater venue.
Oppelt said Friday during a tour of the building that the theater will seat 340 to 400 patrons, with the balcony opened up and bathroom facilities moved to the main floor. He plans to stage one show a week during summer and two to five shows monthly the rest of the year.
He said once drawings are completed, he expects to apply for a building permit shortly after Jan. 1 and begin renovating full-bore.
“My hope is that in mid- to late summer, we’ll be able to open,” he said.
Plans to open a restaurant in the building have been toned down, Oppelt said.
Food and drink will be available, but the focus will be on a separate “backstage bar,” with a separate entrance, open on a regular basis.
The insides of the century-old building were being laid bare Friday, including a dismantled partition in the main theater, revealing 2-foot-by-6-foot beams stretching 24 feet from floor to ceiling.
Rows of dusty theater seats were stacked to the side under stripped walls that divulged a vast expanse of dull red tapestry, now frayed.
Gone, too, was the obligatory popcorn concession stand from a space in the foyer strewn with rubble.
Oppelt’s Jam Properties of PA LLC bought the 10,031-square-foot building from Wenatchee Productions Inc., doing business as Sun Basin Theatres, for $225,000 under a deed recorded June 7.
On July 1, plans for a separate performing arts venue were announced. The center is being funded with a $9 million gift to the Peninsula College Foundation bequeathed in the will of Donna M. Morris of Port Angeles.
Dorothy Field of Port Angeles has donated $1.425 million to purchase a parcel at the corner of Front and Oak streets just four blocks east of the Lincoln Theater — for the nonprofit performing arts venue, the Port Angeles Waterfront Center.
The Waterfront Center won’t be open for about two years, which center committee Chairman S. Brooke Taylor, a retired Clallam County Superior Court judge, described last week as “a totally ballpark figure.”
The center recently gained 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status that opens the door to receive tax-deductible donations.
Fundraising is “the mother’s milk” of the project, Taylor said.
“That pretty much drives the train.”
While the project has $10.4 million in hand, Taylor said a realistic estimate for completion falls somewhere between $15 million and $20 million.
Once built, the two facilities won’t compete, Taylor predicted, adding that Oppelt was told about the project before the Waterfront Center was announced.
“We will have two different downtown performance venues that will be different, that will appeal to different audiences,” he said.
“We will complement each other in a way that will make the downtown a vibrant entertainments center.
“We will continue to work closely with him so we don’t overlap.”
Oppelt said the Waterfront Center won’t crimp the success of his own for-profit venture.
“That’s a committee-driven nonprofit that will be handling things and seeking different types of entertainment there,” he said.
“Also, their timeline is a lot farther out than mine.”
Oppelt was anxious last week to debunk rumors that surfaced after the Waterfront Center project was announced.
He said several people, including one city official, had asked if he was abandoning the Lincoln Theater project and was being forced to sell the facility.
“I absolutely plan on and am 100 percent confident on the project coming to full fruition,” Oppelt said.
He said he has a working business plan, “not necessarily what you would call a traditional business plan on paper.”
Oppelt would not comment on how much the Lincoln Theater renovation will cost or if he had enough money to move forward.
“There’s a lot of work we need to do before we’ll know that for sure,” he said.
He also would not provide details on who is financing the project or if he has enough money as of Friday to complete it.
He indicated he will seek funding from the public.
“I expect to be offering something for people who would like to be part of it,” Oppelt said.
It will be “more like a sponsorship menu than a fundraising menu,” he added.
“I don’t want to be specific on that because we’re working on those things now.”
Oppelt is being joined in the project by a partner, Martin Marchant of Port Angeles, and a silent partner who is a Port Angeles businessman whose name Oppelt would not divulge.
“There is no other partnering going on at this point,” he said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.