Lime Kiln Theater will reopen its doors this month

By Billy Queally

The Lime Kiln Theater is reopening for the 2023 season with new LED lights that its executive director says will enhance the experience for patrons.

Lime Kiln Rock
Lime Kiln’s logo is painted on a rock to mark the entrance of the venue. (Queally photo)

“We have had lights from the ‘80s until this year so it will be a great addition,” said Executive Director Spencer McElroy.

Lime Kiln will officially announce its schedule on March 21. The announcement will take place from 5-7 p.m. at the Southern Inn on South Main Street. 

Margaret McClintock, vice president of Lime Kiln’s board of directors, said the season typically has 10 to 12 concerts. She said sometimes there are “bonus shows” in which a band or artist becomes available later in the season. 

David Wells, a regular patron of Lime Kiln, said he’s looking forward to the new season.

“It’s a world-class venue,” said Wells, who lives in Lexington, “and a great opportunity to hang out with a multitude of different people.” 

Lime Kiln has had its share of troubles. It shut down twice in the last decade.

McElroy said Lime Kiln closed in 2012 because it was spending more money on shows than it could profit from customers. The board made a last-ditch effort to raise money in 2012, but failed and the venue was forced to close. 

Lime Kiln Theater
Lime Kiln’s amphitheater was renovated as part of the 2014 revival of the business. (Queally photo)

In 2013, McElroy took over as executive director and revived Lime Kiln the following year.

“We rebounded very nicely, and business kept getting better and better by the calendar year from 2016 through 2019,” he said. “Then Covid-19 hit us.”

The pandemic forced Lime Kiln to cancel its 2020 season and part of its 2021 lineup. McElroy said he struggled to book artists all year because of the longevity of Covid-19 protocols.

“It was so hard because we never knew how long this pandemic would stop us from putting on shows,” he said.

Lime Kiln is a nonprofit that differs from other similar venues because its staff is made up solely of volunteers. McClintock said every member of the staff has a duty, even it is leaf-blowing or laying down mulch to get the venue ready for concerts. 

“Everyone buys into their role, and everyone likes it, whether it be cutting the grass or picking up leaves. As a volunteer for Lime Kiln, we work to clean the venue,” McClintock said.

McElroy said Lime Kiln will still face challenges going into this season because of inflation and other rising costs.

“If I were to explain Lime Kiln to a friend,” McClintock said, “I’d say it’s a hidden treasure in the woods of Rockbridge County.”