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Minnsky Theatre is in dire straits after taking out high-interest loans

Minnsky Theatre

Minnsky Theatre

Minnsky Theatre and its sister business, Expertease Fitness, need funds to stay open.

Minnsky, which opened its northeast Minneapolis space on Central Avenue in 2016, produces burlesque, circus arts, and vaudeville shows, and also rents its space out to traditional theaters. Expertease, meanwhile, offers alternative fitness classes in aerial arts, burlesque, and pole and belly dancing.

Jac Fatale began her businesses as an LLC in 2010. She was 22, and dreamed of creating a space where sexual assault survivors and people who struggled with body image issues would feel safe, loved, and sexy.

When the business they were renting their studio space from went bankrupt in 2012, Fatale took out her first loan. At first she tried to get a traditional loan from a bank, but was unable to.

"It's hard to get a bank to give you a decent sized loan,” she says. "Between being really young, being a woman, being in a business that isn't fully understood -- all of those things make it hard to get people to believe in you.”

Instead of a traditional loan, Fatale obtained a merchant cash advance: quick cash that comes with high fees and a high interest rate. "They are taking 25 percent of every single transaction that I make, which is horrific for cash flow,” she says.

A lyra class at Expertease

A lyra class at Expertease Minnsky Theatre

In 2016, Fatale took out additional merchant cash advances to move Expertease across the street from Minnsky. The studio’s previous location, 2014 Washington Ave. N. in the Near North area of Minneapolis, was having serious crime issues.

"People were scared to come into the studio,” Fatale says.

(Boom Island Brewing, which is in the same building, announced they were leaving this past September, also due to crime in the area.)

Meanwhile, as Minnsky began the process of building their Central Avenue space, they faced unexpected costs getting the theater up to code. Since Fatale had moved the fitness studio while still working on the theater, she wasn't able to use profits from one part of the business to feed the other, which meant she had to take out another merchant cash advance.

A few weeks ago, Fatale initiated a $250,000 crowdfunding campaign on Gofundme in hopes of keeping both venues open. That amount would allow the company to wipe out its merchant cash advances and give the business time to restructure its other debt. She is also talking to a local family-owned bank, which is willing to work with the business.

"Our company is worth about a million dollars,” Fatale says. "It's not much money in the long run, but when you have something that is taking 25 percent of your cash flow, you can't get out from underneath it.”

The loss of Minnsky Theatre would mean one less performance venue available for small and mid-sized companies.

"We do love Minnsky,” says Claire Avitabile, artistic director of 20% Theatre, whose current production, Waafrica, is onstage there. The 100-seat space, free parking, and all-gender bathrooms make it a viable rental option for them. "Losing another venue that has those things is going to be quite sad if it comes to that,” she says.

With the amount Minnsky has already raised, they will be able to make it through the next couple of months. Their schedule includes a reprise of the Minnesota Fringe hit Hamlet, but Hamlet's a Chicken, a Star Wars-themed holiday special, and a Nutcracker Noir burlesque night.

"We green-lit those projects through the end of the year, and are hoping they sell,” Fatale says. "Our goal is to get to $100,000 by the end of November, and $250,000 by the end of year.”

Fatale is counting on folks who believe in what Minnsky and Expertease have to offer as places of body positive, affirmative community.

"It's really hard to turn to our community and say we need help,” says Fatale. “But with everything going on in the world right now, we need places that make people feel good and give people joy.”