Wichita city council members have voted unanimously to approve a loan of up to $200,000 to help keep the Starlite Drive-In theater running.
The previous owners had closed the theater in October, but a deal was reached to allow a private investment group to buy the facility, and it will be operated by Tulsa drive-in owner Blake Smith. The loan will help with the purchase of two digital projectors.
Council member James Clendenin said a traditional bank loan could not be done in time to reopen the Starlite in late February or early March. He proposed using funds from the city’s recent sale of the Hyatt Regency Hotel for the loan, which will be repaid over a five-year period.
Clendenin said he normally would not suggest the use of city funds for a loan to a private business, but this is a special circumstance with a number of Wichita residents calling for the Starlite to be saved. He also pointed out that the Starlite has been a successful business over the last ten years and has provided a quality-of-life asset for the community.