“Where is the historical society?”
That comment appeared February 7th on the Carlsbad Locals Facebook page shortly after the news broke of the sale of the Carlsbad Village Theater.
The 91-year-old downtown theater was Carlsbad’s only theater until the early ’60s. Over the past two decades the theater was often used for youth beauty pageants, athletic awards ceremonies, comedy shows, youth-theater productions, and concerts.
But the Carlsbad Village Theater is destined for a major change of use.
Neighboring businesses say a brewery/restaurant is in the works once the 338 seats are torn out and a major renovation happens. Records show the building was sold for $2.4 million in November to Encinitas-based RPG 2822 State Street LLC.
Other visitors to the “Carlsbad Locals” website have varying ideas. One commented that the 1927 theater was “old and underused and it’s time for a change,” Another said: “We need to stop tearing down perfectly good structures…. Downtown has become unrecognizable.”
Mike Moser, the Solana Beach–based agent who oversaw the sale, says he couldn’t disclose a lot of details unless cleared with the new owners. He says a brewery and/or restaurant are in the mix and that the building itself will not be torn down.
Moser says the new owners want to restore the theater to its “old glory” and that live entertainment and cultural events are hoped to be part of the new project. Moser said the rumor that Ballast Point Brewing Company had bought the building was not true.
While there is a historical plaque from the City of Carlsbad on the building, the building was marketed as “unique historic (non-registered)”; that means the historical status noted by the plaque does not protect it from anything.
City of Carlsbad planning tech Gina Ruiz reports that nothing has been filed with the city regarding any proposed use change to the State Street theater. She said that current zoning would allow for a brewery/restaurant but that a Village Review Permit (conditional use permit) would have to be applied for and approved.
“It’s a shame,” says Sue Ladoucer, a former member of Carlsbad’s Historic Preservation Commission. She said she was on the commission when it gave the theater its historic plaque. “We were hoping that the city council would take the next step and protect those sites [who received a plaque]. But they didn’t do it.”
Ladoucer says she is not surprised by the move, “…based on all the new development that is happening on State Street.”
She hopes that the new owners will take a cue from Pizza Port, which opened the successful beer-and-pizza restaurant in 1995 in another historical building.
“They bought the old Wonder Bread building,” says Ladoucer about the Pizza Port building on [former Elm Avenue] Carlsbad Village Drive. “They kept the entire façade. We were all very proud of what they did. That was an example of doing a good job with an old building.”
Laurie Batter was once president of the Carlsbad Arts Commission. She says ideally the city would have purchased the theater and maybe given it the same life as another historic theater seven miles south.
“They could have made it an arts movie theater like the La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas,” says Batter. “This is just what we need. Another brewery.”