David Wilcox, AUBURN – They meet in the late ’90s. She’s from Auburn, he’s not. But they’re drawn together by the same passion. That passion leads them to build something in her faded downtown, something that revitalizes it. People who didn’t have a reason to visit Auburn, or to build their own something there, do now. So the two keep building. They keep investing money, and themselves, into Auburn.

Then the coronavirus arrives.

That’s the story of not one, but two anchors of downtown Auburn.

Both Auburn Public Theater and Prison City Pub & Brewery find themselves in parallel situations as the COVID-19 pandemic seizes everyone in its devastating grip. They each began as ways for their founders to share their passions — for arts and culture, for food and craft beer. Then they each sparked a new, resurgent era of downtown — the theater in 2005, the brewpub a decade later. And now, they each have been blindsided by economic catastrophe in the middle of million-dollar expansions — a new café and event space, and a 10-times-bigger brewery.

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