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Owner of downtown Hillsboro theater and restaurant says another buyer could purchase the site this month

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - The Venetian Theatre and Bistro has been closed since April as owner Denzil Scheller searches for a new buyer. The space was expected to be sold months ago, but the sale fell through at the last minute,  Scheller told the Tribune on Tuesday.Despite having a buyer lined up, downtown Hillsboro's Venetian Theatre & Bistro remains closed nearly five months after new owners were expected to take over.

The popular restaurant and theater closed its doors in April as owner Denzil Sheller finalized a sale of the property, which would have passed ownership to the 10-year-old business at 253 E. Main St.to an anonymous buyer.

But Sheller confirmed to the Tribune on Tuesday that the sale fell through at the last minute, leaving the downtown business closed while they search for new buyers to take over the space.

"The guy had the money in the bank, he just had to hand the check over," Scheller said. "That was the only element missing, but he never did it. His agent, my agent, we were trying to get ahold of him. He just disappeared."

The Venetian includes a 386-seat theater as well as a bistro-style eatery in an adjacent space. Sheller, 69, has owned the eatery and theater since 2007, and has been looking to sell the business since 2013.

Scheller said that after the sale fell through, they couldn't re-open.

"We told our employees at least a month ahead of time what was going on, they all had new jobs lined up," he said. "Even if we wanted to, we couldn't re-open, we had nobody to work for us."

At the time of the business' closure, Sheller expected the site to be shut down "for a few weeks" while ownership changed hands, but nearly five months later, the site remains empty, though its electronic reader board outside assures patrons that the closure is only temporary.

Scheller said he has found a new buyer for the restaurant and theater space, but remained tight-lipped about what is in store for the well-known business.

"He's a name that you would recognize," he said.

Scheller said that he believes the potential owners plan to keep the business as it is.

"It's an odd piece of property," Scheller admitted. "There has been a lot of interest from buyers over the years, but they either want the restaurant but not the theater, or vice versa. It took an oddball like me to say, 'Hey, this will work.' The new buyers see that."

Scheller said the venue will continue to be a home for live performances, such as concerts and plays, and will likely continue to include private rentals for dance recitals, martial arts demonstrations and corporate trainings.

"We had a lot of that kind of stuff," he said. "But we need more of it."

Scheller said he has offered to stay on at the business while the new owners get settled.

"We've just been waiting and waiting and waiting, hoping this works out," Scheller said. "I expect to have some sort of agreement in place this week. Things keep going along."

The pending sale of the Venetian forced Bag&Baggage, Hillsboro's professional theater company and the space's most prominent tenant, to cancel its final show of the season and move performance of another show to the Hillsboro Shute Park Library.

Bag&Baggage is opening its own space in downtown in September.

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