Palace Theatre stuck with $35,000 repair bill after thieves vandalize AC unit

A not-for-profit theatre company in London is frustrated after thieves vandalized the air conditioning unit for the third time in five years, leaving the theatre on the hook for a $35,000 repair bill.

“We have a fence all around it but they’ve cut the wires and gone through our security system to get to the air conditioning system,” said Palace Theatre Arts Commons board chair, Kelli Gough about the April 20 incident.

“They removed about $16 worth of copper.”

The vandalism follows two similar copper thefts in the neighbourhood that recently saw the charity Growing Chefs! targeted and at left on the hook for thousands of dollars.

While the theatre waits for the proper parts to arrive to repair the AC unit, crews reinforce the fencing. (Submitted by Palace Theatre)

“We lost all our Freon,” said Gough. “That’s going to be between $20,000 and $25,000.” 

Plus, the air conditioning unit — which cools the auditorium and dressing room — is damaged, and with the insurance company demanding the theatre reinforce the fencing around the unit, the total repair bill will be around $35,000.

Gough said she is hopeful insurance will cover a portion of the bill and donors will help pay for the rest.

“For us to come up with this kind of money is just going to be another huge challenge,” said Gough. “We’re just starting to round the bend out of COVID and then to be hit by this, it was devastating for us.”

“No arrest has been made and the investigation is ongoing,” said London Police media relations spokesperson, Sandasha Bough, who was unable to say if copper thefts are up in the city.

When CBC News asked where thieves might be selling stolen copper, Bough replied by email, “As for where exactly the copper is being sold after it is stolen – only the suspect(s) could reply to that question.”

Board chair, Kelli Gaugh, is hopeful insurance will cover some of the $35,000 repair bill. (Submitted)

Bottled water keeping patrons cool

The theatre is currently waiting for the parts to repair the AC unit and in the meantime, audience members have been doing their best to keep cool when temperatures have soared.

“Last week we were running shows and we had pretty good size houses and we sold a lot of water at our concession to help people keep cold.”

Gough worries the vandalism may deter audience members from visiting the theatre, not because the auditorium may be warm, but because they may be concerned for their safety.

“It’s very disheartening when they hear about things like this and then they think it’s a dangerous place,” said Gough.

“I wish that we would be able to catch them and they’d be able to get the services that they need,’ she said. “It speaks of their desperation to be going after 16 dollars and doing so much damage. I feel these people need better care than what the city is providing at this time.”