Local News

Roanoke Rapids regains control of troubled theater

Posted August 31, 2010

— Roanoke Rapids will regain control of a troubled multimillion-dollar music theater on Wednesday morning, following an order issued Tuesday by a Superior Court judge.

Judge Cy Grant ordered that L&M Hospitality LLC, which last year agreed to a lease-purchase plan to take over the Roanoke Rapids Theatre, turn over all keys, access codes and personal property related to the theater to city officials by 9 a.m. Wednesday.

The $21.5 million, 1,500-seat Roanoke Rapids Theatre was expected to spur growth along Interstate 95 and to generate enough revenue to pay off a $21.5 million loan the city borrowed.

But poor ticket sales, management issues and the economy have kept the theater in the red, forcing local leaders to increase the local tax rate last year by 5 cents to pay its bills.

Chicago businessman Lafayette Gatling, who operates L&M Hospitality, reached a deal last year to buy the venue for $12.5 million, which was supposed to help Roanoke Rapids erase debt incurred from the project.

The Roanoke Rapids City Council terminated the deal in April because Gatling was falling behind on his lease payments, and the city sued L&M Hospitality in June to evict Gatling and regain control of the music theater.

Gatling owes $530,000 in back rent, according to city officials.

"This order is a good result for the city and now allows us to move forward with concluding the lawsuit (and), more importantly, to move forward with revitalizing the theater itself," Mayor Emery Doughtie said in a statement. "We hope to have activity in the theater in the next 30 to 60 days."

City Manager Paul Sabiston said officials would find another firm to run the theater at least on a temporary basis.

"We believe it is important to try to bring back quality performances to the theater as soon as possible and do that in a professional manner that can give the public some confidence in the theater operations,” Sabiston said in a statement.


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  • lkanzig Sep 6, 2010

    randy parton? really???? other than being dolly's brother, what is he famous for? bindu, you seriously think its a good location? its in the middle of nowhere! not putting the town down, it is a nice town, but with other venues somewhat close its a waste of money!

  • superman Sep 1, 2010

    It was not only a poor decision on the Citys part for a bad one. They just dont get enough people to stop there and spend the night. It works in Mrytle Beach because of the beach and the golf courses. Raleigh isnt any better building the convention center. Just a matter of time before the convention center folds or they going to need massive amounts to keep it running.

  • Vietnam Vet Aug 31, 2010

    What the heck is the city doing in the theater business anyway and borrowing money against taxpayer funds to do it in the first place would be my question...

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Aug 31, 2010

    this was joke from day one.

    and so are those who voted to allow it and voted to hire Randy Parton!

  • phoffman4 Aug 31, 2010

    Since Roanoke Rapids regained control of the theater, does this mean they won or lost the court case?

  • Commenter Aug 31, 2010

    Turn it into "North of the Border".

  • binduandbindu Aug 31, 2010

    This can be a biggest entertainment place on HWY 95. Roanoke Rapids should not give up, Beautiful theater, Great Location, beautiful people. I am 100% sure, theater just need a GREAT LEADER/OPERATOR/MANAGER and Roanoke Rapids will be on national TV every month. Good Luck Roanoke Rapids !!! Bindu!!

  • wat63 Aug 31, 2010

    "Anybody know who Lafayette Gatling is connected to politically? Give you one guess.......When he purchased this property he did so hoping his old buddy would send some stimulus money his way so he could renovate and expand it. Guess we know what happened there."

    I think it was Obama's idea to hire Randy Parton, as well.

  • oleguy Aug 31, 2010

    A mexican flea market,, The one in Smithdield is busting at the seams,, yep flea market,,, Yankees also like big flea markets

  • Garden Guy Aug 31, 2010

    think second-use space - the auditorium would be a great lecture hall, maybe the first building for RR univerity