Mayor Vince Gray dropped some big news this afternoon in a presolicitation event at the Lincoln Theatre: The historic U Street NW venue is officially looking for a new operator. A request for proposals (RFP) is expected to go out in the next 30 days, confirms Lionell Thomas, director of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, which runs the theater.

The goal of the RFP, says Thomas, is to “secure an operator to manage and operate the theater full time.” There should be an operator on board by the end of this year. Thomas says some parties have expressed interest in running the venue, but he’s not at liberty to name names at this point. The city would like the new management to run it as a mixed-use theater, much like the venue is now, in a matter that is “true to its roots.”

The city-owned Lincoln Theatre has struggled to stay afloat for years now, as we’ve extensively reported. After another money-losing year under management by the nonprofit U Street Theatre Foundation, the city dropped its contract with the group and handed the reins to the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. The commission has run the theater since Jan. 1, but that hasn’t kept ticketholders streaming through its doors: the ornate venue still remains closed most nights of the week.

After analyzing the needs of the Lincoln Theatre, Thomas says, “we thought that this was the best approach, to get someone to come in with a creative concept.”

At the same event, the mayor also announced that the H Street Playhouse will move east of the river.

Photo by Flickr user Steve Snodgrass used under a creative commons license.