|Loose Moose Theatre will be homeless in a matter of weeks after it balked at a huge rent increase from its landlord, the owners of the Garry Theatre in Inglewood.
Dennis Cahill, Loose Moose's artistic director, says the company is looking for new theatre space after it decided it wouldn't pay the owners of the historic Garry Theatre a rent that was triple the size of its last lease agreement.
The owners of the Garry Theatre, Calgary's John and Oreal Kerr, say the new rent is a fair price for the area after giving Loose Moose a sweatheart rental agreement for the past five years.
Cahill says the theatre group best known for its innovative improvisational theatre simply decided it wasn't worth the new rent for the space.
"We felt we could get something a little larger for less rent," Cahill says. "It's sad to leave because I think Loose Moose fit in very well down here. I like Inglewood. I think it's a great neighbourhood."
Cahill says the theatre group is in sound financial shape, but realizes it's going to be a struggle to find new theatre space in a city where theatre space is already at a premium.
"It's going to be a bit of a struggle, but I think we're highly adaptable," he says.
Oreal Kerr says she rented the space to Loose Moose five years ago at the low rate of $1,500 a month as a way of making a contribution to the community, but she feels rent on the building should now reflect its actual cost, which is why she is asking $5,000 a month.
"We offered it at $1,500 a month (in 1997), which was stupid. People were clamouring to get in but we went with Loose Moose because of their reputation," Kerr says. "We allowed them to build up their bank account while they were there
They admit they can afford the rent, but they don't want to pay it."
Kerr says she has been displeased with Loose Moose's contribution to the community and offered them a reduced rate if they would agree to occasionally share the space with other community groups, but that was rejected.
"I'd love to have kept Loose Moose, but I want something in there that will contribute to the community," Kerr says. "If they had gone for the community use, we would have had a deal."
Kerr also discounts rumours that the space will be converted into a furniture store as "pure speculation." She says she doesn't know who will take up residency in the theatre, but has tentative plans to renovate the facility to allow for its use as a retail space, with the potential to covert it back to a theatre in the future.
Cahill says the community use offer didn't fit into Loose Moose's operations.
"It was never a fully formed plan on their part. It's a mistake to think we weren't using the space (to its capacity)
We're already short of space," Cahill says. "To me, it didn't seem like a reasonable offer and it seemed like a way for them to say (we) don't help out the community, and anyone who knows us knows that isn't true."
Both Kerr and Cahill say there is little chance a new deal can be worked out at this point. Loose Moose is already packing its bags and looking for a new home.
"Hopefully we'll be up and running again in a few months," Cahill says.