Fringe Fest Briefly Revives 45 Bleecker as Theater, But Could It Become a Bar?

Almost a year after 45 Bleecker Street ceased to operate as a theater due to a dispute between the landlord and the production company that leased the space, the New York International Fringe Festival is reviving it as a temporary headquarters. Starting this Friday, the venue will host productions such as “Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera” and “Theater of the Arcade: Five Classic Video Games Adapted for the Stage.” However, it’s uncertain how long the space’s life as a theater will last.

The landlord Fred Rogers, a retired New York City electrical engineer who now lives in Las Vegas, is aggressively trying to find a new tenant. He said that of the potential renters, “a couple” were interested in turning the space into a restaurant, another couple hoped to turn it into a bar, and just one was interested in keeping the building as a theater.

Mr. Rogers said he doesn’t care what type of business eventually occupies the space: “I’m an owner, period, and I’m looking for steady tenants.”

So far, nothing has panned out. “We discuss it and it sort of ends at that,” Mr. Rogers said. “Nobody’s really taking it. People are afraid, probably because of the economy.”

Meanwhile, the Real Deal reports today that Mr. Rogers, who last year successfully sued to evict his former tenants, Tewksbury Management Group, in Manhattan tenant and landlord court, is now being sued by the production company in State Supreme Court. His former tenants are asking for $12.5 million in damages including lost profits and other expenses. (Mr. Rogers declined to comment on the new suit.)

While all this goes on, the Fringe Fest organizers say they’re happy to use the building as both a venue and a ticket office.

“We haven’t used a building with a theater in it in about a decade,” said Elena Holy, Fringe’s producing artistic director, who says the festival got a “significantly reduced rate” on the space.

Ms. Holy said that not much had to be done to bring 45 Bleecker into working order. The lobby walls are still painted salmon, with thin white fluorescent lights hanging from the ceiling. The hardwood floor is still worn down. The front desk now has a few desktop computers and a credit card machine for ticket purchases. (Tickets are available now.)

The theater’s onetime dressing rooms now serve as administrative offices for Fringe Festival staff. An adjoining space has been transformed into a makeshift cafe and gift shop.

The Fringe staff plans to use the theater from now until the festival ends Aug. 28.

“We’ve got all the technical equipment loaded into the 18 venues,” said John Trevellini, the facilities coordinator for the festival. (Eight of those 18 venues are located in East Village.) “We should be ready tomorrow, so we’re way ahead of schedule.”