A worker cleans the aisles at the San Diego Civic Theatre as the San Diego Opera transitions between two performances. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Succumbing to the economic turmoil caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, San Diego Theatres, the nonprofit that runs downtown’s San Diego Civic Theatre and the Balboa Theatre has laid off nearly half of its staff.

In a Friday letter to its staff, the nonprofit group that leases the theaters from the city of San Diego and operates them independently, announced it had laid off 21 full-time staffers and converted 12 full-time positions to part time. Hours for all part-time staff have been cut back.

All events at the theaters through the end of April have been canceled, as have most in May and June, the letter said.

“It hasn’t been easy,” Carol Wallace and Kelly Bargabos, the organization’s CEO and CFO, write in the letter. “This week, we were faced with extremely difficult decisions that impacted valued and respected team members of San Diego Theatres. We ask that you now look to the future with us.”

In addition to the layoffs, executive staffers took a 15 percent pay cut, while directors took a 10 percent reduction and non-union staff, including managers, took a 5 percent cut.

The organization had revenue of $10.5 million as of its 2017 tax return, the most recent that’s publicly available. San Diego Threatres leases both theaters from the city, and rents them out to organizations like Broadway San Diego and San Diego Opera for events. In 2013, it struck a 50-year lease with the city for Civic Theatre, in which it pays a nominal rent to the city to cover administrative costs while agreeing to spearhead a $30 million renovation of the auditorium. Fundraising for the project has been slow.

There are now 25 full-time staffers at San Diego Theatres, down from 58 before the cuts. Part-time workers increased from 168 to 180.

Wallace, in a statement to Voice of San Diego, said the unprecedented crisis from the coronavirus forced the organization into the decision.

“San Diego Theatres is a non-profit, and like many other organizations, we’ve had to make some hard decisions in a very short time,” she wrote. “We are functioning on a very lean team at this time in order to be ready when business resumes.”

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org...

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