WOODSTOCK, N.Y — Two iconic businesses, the Bear Café and the Bearsville Theater, both located on Tinker Street, closed suddenly and without warning in late March, according to residents. The abrupt closing followed an earlier closing for nonpayment of state taxes in 2018.
The closing was so abrupt that some performers, such as the band Turkuaz, were left scrambling to find new places to perform.
Woodstock residents have been upset about the downward spiral of the two beloved venues since they were acquired by “outsider” John Kirkpatrick five years ago.
“The townspeople were very unhappy,” said a member of the Woodstock Town Board who asked not to be identified. “There were complaints about how things were being run.”
Kirkpatrick, who has returned to his home in Florida, said in a phone interview that he was not the owner, but the manager. “A corporation owns the properties” he said Kirkpatrick. He declined to name the corporation.
Others say that Kirkpatrick, together with a partner, purchased the property in 2014. The 15-acre property includes a residential building and radio station WDST, which is still broadcasting, in addition to the café and the theater.
Photographs of the two closed buildings show posted Health Department violations. Resident Maura Moynihan, daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, said the café and theater were mismanaged.
“Vendors weren’t paid,” said Moynihan. “The buildings weren’t maintained.”
What Moynihan and other residents called “frozen pipes” in the theater, Kirkpatrick called a “leak that was fixed.” According to Kirkpatrick, “The theater is in fine shape.”
Bill McKenna, the Woodstock town supervisor, said he has tried repeatedly to get in touch with Kirkpatrick through texts and phone calls, but to no avail.
Kirkpatrick says he is seeking a buyer for the venues, someone “who will take care of them. I want to see it thrive. But you have to have the resources. I don’t.”
Kirkpatrick has a house in Mount Tremper that’s currently on the market for an asking price of $2 million.
The cafe and theater are currently under contract to be sold to Tai Burnett of Woodstock, said Kirkpatrick. He said he expects the deal to close in two weeks.
“If this deal doesn’t go through, there are others who want to buy it,” he said.
“It’s a shame,” said Moynihan. “Especially just as the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival starts. The Bear was a destination café. It brought business to the town. People are shocked to hear it has closed. This is a loss for everybody. It’s a crying shame.”