For Lorcan and Genie Otway, running Theatre 80 St. Marks in the East Village has not just provided their livelihood, but also their home.
They lived in an apartment above the theatre until they were evicted on April 5.
The Otways were locked out of the two-building complex, which houses an Off-Broadway theatre, a tavern and the Museum of the American Gangster.
The businesses were devastated by COVID-19 shutdowns and a pre-pandemic mortgage the Otways took out went into default, leaving them more than $12 million in the hole. A bankruptcy auction is set for May 9.
Among those watching closely is Andrew Berman of Village Preservation, who fears that once the theatre is gone, luxury condominiums could eventually wind up there instead.
"This is an irreplaceable institution, and once it's gone, it's gone forever, so these two weeks are what we have to make sure that a loss that we will be mourning for generations doesn't happen," Berman said.
Lorcan Otway suggests the city take the property through eminent domain and allow their newly-formed nonprofit to continue to run the cultural destination.
"The city helped us to create the [nonprofit], but then casting us lose in the last 10 days or so that we can actually save the place, at the end of the day is meaningless. We need decisive action from the city to save this building and this institution," Otway said.
Currently, the Otways are staying in a room provided by a neighborhood priest who is an old friend. They are holding out for a miracle to somehow get them back inside a place filled with so much performing arts and family history.
"The worst part is the uncertainty, and having to ask for help from friends is extraordinarily difficult when you've always been the one extending help to others," Otway said.
For now, the Otways are forced to walk away from Theatre 80, when they would much rather be walking in — to stage a play, or simply be home again.