At Thursday’s hearing regarding whether the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s injunction against the Lansburgh Theater, its landlord and supporting organization, should be tried in a Federal Court, Judge Richard Leon determined the issue should be tried in a D.C. Superior Court. He said the “battle” between the STC and the Lansburgh “has all the trappings of an epic one.”
STC filed a lawsuit against the Lansburgh in mid-June after the Lansburgh raised the rent by 700 percent. In addition to halting the rent increase, the STC wants to remain on the premises at the Lansburgh and see that members of the landlord’s board are dismissed.
For 20 years, as long as the STC has occupied the space, the Lansburgh, which was established as a charity specifically to be STC’s landlord and supporting organization, charged an annual rent of $70,000. (In this case, the rent is put into a trust fund that must be used exclusively for capital improvements and the benefit of the theater, not for the profit of the Lansburgh.) The Lansburgh is legally bound to devote space on the premises to a charitable organization. STC leaders argue as long as STC continues to fulfill its obligations, they can occupy the theater forever. .
During the hearing Thursday, Patrick Conner, representing the Lansburgh, asked if the Lansburgh would be “stuck with the Shakespeare Theatre forever.” According to Randall Miller, who is representing the STC, the answer to that question is yes, as long as STC continues to be a charitable organization and produce “first class classical theater.”
“This was an important victory for us,” he said after the hearing. In attempting to take the case to the Federal Court, the Lansburgh “tried to derail everything.”
“This is a D.C. issue. The Theatre is a D.C. cultural treasure,” said Miller. “The court that should be most interested in protecting this is the D.C. Superior Court.”
The D.C. Superior Court will set a trial date.