Conklin's Theatre shuts down after claim denied

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For nearly 40 years, the big red barn in Goodfield has been host to some of this area’s biggest stars, funniest performances and even an original play or two.

On Wednesday, Sept. 30, Conklin’s Barn II Dinner Theatre ceased operations, the victim of a violent storm that left the structure unsafe and irreparable. Plans to relocate the theatre to a temporary stage in hopes the barn could be repaired were canceled because the theater is “in extreme financial peril,” a news release said.

The closure comes less than one month from Conklin’s 40th anniversary.

“I was really hoping we could get open in the new location to tide us over, but with the insurance claim denied, we have no choice but to cease operations immediately,” owner Mary Simon said.

“I am heartbroken to have to make this announcement. The barn employees are my family and our audiences are simply the best and so supportive. But I had no choice,” she said.

Simon said the damaging storm went through Goodfield on Aug. 18, and caused severe wind damage to the barn. However, the insurance company declared on Aug. 26 that the barn was unsafe but denied the claim that it was because of storm damage. Simon protested, but the denial was upheld on Tuesday.

“The insurance company is saying it wasn’t storm damage but just the barn falling down. But as recently as April 20, 2015, the insurance company insured the business as structurally sound without riders or restrictions. With the claim being denied, we’re in extreme financial peril and I was in danger of losing everything. I have no choice,” she said.

“I just don’t understand how they could have reached that conclusion and denied the claim,” Simon added. She said her next step may include a lawsuit; for that reason she won’t identify the insurance company.

Simon said she had planned to re-open temporarily in a new location in Morton and to use the business interruption section of her insurance on the barn to make up for the fact she would not be able to perform as many nights. When the claim was denied, she had no business interruption insurance and she was unable to continue with those plans, nor was she able to continue to paying her employees, several of whom were performers at the barn.

After the barn closed, members of the company spent weeks on the phones, cancelling reservations for performances and re-scheduling reservations in the planned temporary facility in hopes that the company could continue operations with the help of insurance money. Since the insurance claim has been denied, and the proposed transfer isn’t possible, individual parties with reservations will not be called to be told of the closure of the company.

“I kept it going for seven weeks believing we’d be able to relocate temporarily and get back to the barn. This whole thing is a mess,” she said.

Simon said many patrons have stepped up with offers of help, but none can guarantee the company would be able to do more than three shows a week. With the costs involved, including salaries, “I just can’t make it on three shows a week,” she said.

However, she noted, she is still holding out hope to someday be able to reopen. “It’s not likely, but it’s possible.”

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).