Over time the grotto-like space between Shea's Performing Arts Center's ticket office and its second stage, Smith Theatre, has been through more incarnations than there are scene changes in a Broadway musical.
In the late 1800s it was part of a nondescript commercial building that occupied a large section of Main Street's 600 block; most of it was torn down in the 1920s to make room for Michael Shea's Buffalo Theater. Since the mid-20th Century it has been home to restaurants, bars and even a small stage run by television news anchor and actor Irv Weinstein.
Now the location has yet another identity: Intermission Lounge, a before-show and between-acts concession area for both Shea's and Smith. Finally, it has a starring role it is likely to possess for years to come.
With new hardwood floors, a long oak bar, space for several tables and a staircase leading to mezzanine seating, the lounge fills a gap in the ongoing restoration and expansion of Shea's into a leading Broadway road house.
Most importantly, the facility will make money for the landmark 3,000-seat performing arts center, which needs more than ticket sales to cover operating costs.
"I'm always explaining to people that what they spend for tickets only pays for the shows they see," said Shea's President Anthony C. Conte.
The lounge typically will open two hours before Shea's performances and re-open during the 20-minute intermissions -- ample time to have a drink or two and order from a tapas-style menu. It will be the primary concession space for small performances and special events at Smith, and also will be be rented out for fundraisers and other events.
Shea's primary beverage concession will remain in the theater's main lobby.
Conte feels the new lounge will "enhance the overall experience for our patrons," and make it easier for staff members to move through the entertainment complex.
Time and materials donated by vendors shaved at least $130,000 from the roughly $150,000 cost of converting the space. Given the scarcity of funding available to nonprofit organizations like Shea's, "this project could not have happened without them," said Conte, who treated vendors to dinner before Tuesday's opening performance of "Camelot."
They included architect and designer Kenneth Grajek, Siracuse Engineers, CBO Glass, Mader Construction, Alp Steel, Buffalo Hardwood, Dommer Construction, Metzger Inc., Shaw Industries, Precision Carpet Installation, Italian Marble and Granite, Carpenters Local 289, Dake Construction, M&T Bank, Frey Electric, Shanor Electric, Firesafe Innovations, Arlan Peters, Dominic DeFillipo and Dr. Bernard Wakefied.