Lack of events dries up revenues
It’s been a bad year for the Barn.
Like most public venues in the state, the Winthrop Barn has been off limits to major public gatherings since the state’s COVID-19 recovery plan went into effect earlier this year.
The Barn is spacious, convenient and adaptable, which has made it a popular site for a variety of events. But when the coronavirus restrictions were imposed, all the concerts, meetings, weddings and other gatherings that would have filled the Barn had to cancel their bookings. The last big event at the Barn was Room One’s “Big Event” fundraiser at the end of February.
Other major happenings including the Winthrop Kiwanis Bite of the Methow, the annual gathering of the Zumiez sales staff, Winthrop ’49er Days and the Winthrop Vintage Wheels Show all canceled their Barn dates. The annual Christmas at the End of the Road appearance of Santa Claus is also canceled, as is the holiday shopping bazaar. Other Barn regulars such as the monthly “First Tuesday” meeting of the Methow Conservancy and monthly meetings of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce have gone virtual.
That means the Barn’s usual sources of revenue have all but disappeared. At its meeting last week, the Winthrop Town Council informally discussed the barn’s situation as an off-agenda topic during the council members’ comments portion of the meeting.
The Winthrop Barn, popularly known as the “red barn,” is owned by the town, and is operated by the nonprofit Winthrop Auditorium Association under an annual contract. Two years ago, the town and the Auditorium Association reached a contract agreement after months of negotiating over what the town would provide towards the facility’s operation.
Council member Bill McAdow said he had a recent conversation with Auditorium Association President Rick Northcott — a former Winthrop mayor and council member — in which Northcott inquired about the town helping the barn out. McAdow asked if the town might be able to use federal CARES Act funds the town received to counter the effects of the COVID-19 restrictions.
Mayor Sally Ranzau said she would like to know more about what the Auditorium Association’s needs are before the town can consider helping.
McAdow said he doesn’t want to see the Auditorium Association struggle to the point where the town has to take over its operations.
Council member Ben Nelson said he would like to see the association explore other funding opportunities as well and “be a little more proactive.”
“Why bail them out now?” Nelson asked. He said the auditorium association needs to do more to demonstrate its needs.
“No matter who’s in charge, we’ve got to deal with it,” said council member Joseph O’Driscoll. “It’s still on us.”
Ranzau said she agreed that the town has some responsibility for the barn’s operations so that it doesn’t go out of business. The mayor said she would contact Northcott for more information.