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Circle Bar B Theatre Closing

Dinner-Plus-Play Program Will End This Fall After 40 Years

Originally published 2:15 p.m., August 1, 2014
Updated 10:28 a.m., August 6, 2014
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After 40 years, the Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre is heading for its last roundup and will be closing for good at the end of the current season in October.

Word leaked out Friday, shocking loyal theatergoers. Longtime producers David and Susie Couch got the word last May that their lease would not be renewed.

Susie hopes that the show will go on at another venue, she told The Santa Barbara Independent on Friday, but declined to say where that might be. “We feel very positive that something good will come of it,” she said. “We’re not going to give up.”

The current production of Enchanted April, which this reporter found delightful, runs through September 7, followed by the season’s final play, French farce Boeing Boeing, which runs September 19-October 26.

Kathy Brown, whose family is the longtime owner of the Circle Bar B Ranch and Stables high on Refugio Road, told The Independent that the theater “has run its course,” and that the Browns want to “go in a different direction,” with more lucrative operations, including weddings and barbecues. “We have to do something more lucrative,” she said.

The theater, which has 350 season ticket holders, offers the appeal of a ride out into the mountains, a drink on the patio, and a superb tri-tip and chicken barbecue dinner, followed by a show in the cozy theater, usually featuring familiar actors and directors. The Couches often appeared in their productions.

In a press release on Friday, the Couches said they “deeply regret” that their involvement will end. They have been performers and directors at the Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre for 24 years and producers for the past 11.

“We hope that everyone will join us for these last two shows so that Susie and I [can] properly say good-bye to all our amazing supporters,” said David, to which Susie added,“We are so excited that our final two shows will be so memorable.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

End of an era. Thank you Brown family for the memories as your working ranch evolved over time. Best wishes for the new direction you want to take this beloved locale and many thanks for the privilege of lettinng us share your priavate ranch for so long.

And to the players of the Circle Bar B theater groups that lit up the stage and made theater magic happen in the most unlikely setting under the tremendous challenges of such a small and intimate space. It was a grand journey together. Salute you all.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2014 at 5:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Weddings and BBQ' s ? Good luck with that. The dinner and theater has been a rare treasure and we made a point to see at least one show a year. Will really miss it !
If they don't control the horse flies, you can forget about daytime weddings and bbqs. The dinner and theater worked because the flies retreat in the evenings. We've stayed there for the weekend and it is pure misery with the flies during the day.

geeber (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2014 at 6:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

very sad, it was an institution...

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2014 at 7:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, very sad. In my 72 years, many good things like this have faded away and nearly every attempt to replace them just doesn't measure up. A fact of life that the excellent is oft replaced by the mediocre. However every once in a while something brand new proves to be excellent.

msmsls (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2014 at 9:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What a shame! I hope they find another venue for sure. We will not miss the last two shows.

rukidding (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2014 at 9:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I really love my times at the Circle Bar B Ranch. Although I now live in South America, I always try to include time at the ranch during my frequent returns to Santa Barbara. Few of the locals really know what a wonderful place this is to visit for a day of family enjoyment, and both Pat and Cathy Brown are caring stewards of this local, hidden treasure. They are wonderful people and I wish them well during these times of business challenges.

danimal (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2014 at 1:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The truth of the matter: the food was not very good. You are paying $49 a ticket and the theater group only got $17 of that. The rest of the money went to the Ranch. Most people don't realize they were two totally separate businesses: the Couches were running the theatre, and the Browns run the ranch (dinner and the location). The dinner sounds like a great deal: tri-tip, salad, bread and beans. But when you see the food is all coming out of a bag from costco (nothing was homemade, though the tri-tip was cooked onsite), it doesn't do much to justify the costs of dinner. Even the plain chocolate cake was store-bought. You would think they could make some food from scratch in their huge and renovated kitchen. The meal did include drinks: watered down lemonade and water. Many people got sick from eating the food. It's too bad, because they could have really offered amazing meals- using fresh, local produce and maybe even food from their orchards.

sbtheatrelover (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2014 at 10:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

One bought the whole event: the drive in the country, being on the ranch with its non-city sights and smells, the outdoor picnic dinner, the sqwaks of the peacocks, the light-hearted amateur plays in the barn setting and seeing the stars at night when it was time to go home.

Costco makes good cakes. One did not go to dine, one went for food and fun. Circle Bar B never failed to deliver. Thank you to the generations of the Brown family who let us share their little corner of the back country for this special local outing.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 3, 2014 at 8:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hope the Couches find a venue.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
August 3, 2014 at 11:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hi everyone!

Its been an amazing 43 years with the dinner theater! We look forward to seeing all our new guests, repeat guests, and season ticket holders as we wrap up the final season. Also make sure to leave your e-mail address with us when you come to visit that way we can be in touch and keep you posted on the new and exciting things we have planned!

Thanks to all who have supported us in the years past!

Your friends

Circle Bar B

cbbsb11 (anonymous profile)
August 4, 2014 at 11:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So sad!!!! It was such a fun, unique, authentic experience! Goodbye rustic theatre, to be replaced with...*sigh* another wedding venue. Less of a community builder and more of a caterer to outsiders and the over-priced fat cat wedding industry. I mean, I get it. Unless you have loads of cash in SB it all boils down to making money...staying out of the red. But sadly when that's the driving force everything becomes whitewashed and lifeless.

Gaijin (anonymous profile)
August 7, 2014 at 3:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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