GOODFIELD, Ill. — Less than a month away from its planned 40th anniversary celebration, Conklin’s Barn II Dinner Theatre is shutting down operations, it was announced Wednesday.
The Quad-City Times Plus 60 Club had planned an Oct. 25 trip to the theater that has now been canceled.
A storm that went through Goodfield on Aug. 18 caused severe wind damage to the former cattle sale barn that has housed the landmark theater since it opened on Halloween night in 1975.
According to Barn II owner Mary Simon, the insurance company insured the business as structurally sound without riders or restrictions.
After examination by a forensic engineer assigned by the insurance company, the 74-year-old barn was deemed nonrepairable and the claim of storm damage was denied, leaving the theater "in extreme financial peril," Simon said.
Previously announced plans to reopen temporarily at the Best Western Ashland House and Conference Center in Morton, Ill., have been canceled due to the financial restrictions.
“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,” Simon said.
The insurance money would have covered for a series of weekend dates in October and November that were unavailable at the hotel due to prior commitments.
She said the only way to pay the bills is to stage a minimum of four performances a week; without them, she estimated her weekly losses at $3,000.
“That's why I had to close,” Simon added. “It would be a disaster to go on. I would lose everything.”
Simon said she has been paying her 10 employees their full- and part-time salaries since the storm damage closed down the barn in anticipation of resuming operations in Morton.
Simon praised both the Best Western for its efforts and the many offers of help and donations that have poured in since the news of the closing broke.
“I've had so many offers of help, I can't tell you … from food vendors, from customers, from people just concerned,” she said. “Our audiences have always been so supportive through good times and bad, and we are appreciative of that. But there is no feasible way to continue at this point.”
This isn't the Barn's first closure: in 1994, Simon and her late partner, Chaunce Conklin, were forced to shut down amid bankruptcy and foreclosure proceedings, moving to Branson and Florida for a year.
They returned to Goodfield in 1995 and successfully reopened the Barn as the Barn II Dinner Theatre. It has remained open ever since, surviving Conklin's death in 1999 — all under Simon's guidance.
April Bieschke, a Conklin player for nine years, said her tenure at the Barn has been heaven for someone like her with a passion for theater. '“It just became the best thing ever, and it never felt like I was going to work … we've gone beyond being friends; we're family.”