Downtown to toast Turnage

Published 7:16 pm Friday, September 27, 2013

Downtown Washington merchants have issued an invitation to a very public toast of the sale of the Turnage Theater to the Beaufort County Arts Council.

The champagne toast will happen at 8 p.m. Thursday night, as Joey Toler, BCAC executive director, will light the marquee, ushering a new era for the theater, Toler said.

The idea came from Inner Banks Artisans’ Center owner Bob Henkel and Roger Meyland, owner of Grub Brothers Eatery, two of the theater’s closest neighbors. Not only will merchants up and down Main Street join the celebration of the theater’s sale — they’ll be open for business from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., launching the extended Thursday night hours that will carry them into the coming holiday season.

“Joey’s going to turn the lights on at 8 o’clock and all the stores downtown will have champagne,” Henkel said. “We’ll distribute the champagne — just enough for a toast.”

The Beaufort County Arts Council became the official owner of the early 20th century theater on Sept. 26, following the theater’s foreclosure last year and sale on the Beaufort County Courthouse steps to Wells Fargo. The selling price for the renovated theater was $250,000, with local organizations Beaufort County Committee of 100 and Washington Harbor District Alliance pitching in for the $40,000 down payment.

Because of deep financial woes, the Turnage closed in December of 2011 — what many considered to be both a cultural loss for the residents of Beaufort County and a financial loss for the merchants in downtown Washington.

For Henkel, the theater’s reopening as a cultural arts center under BCAC care is cause for celebration.

“It’s just showing our support. We’re not trying to make a big deal about it, we’re just trying to say it was a good thing to do,” Henkel said. “Everybody’s invited. The more customers we get down here the better — that way they’ll know that we’re open on Thursday nights. But that’s by far not out objective: it’s to celebrate the return of the Turnage.”