Local News

Roanoke Rapids files lawsuit to remove theater's tenant

Posted June 18, 2010 10:06 a.m. EDT

— Roanoke Rapids has filed a lawsuit to get rid of the tenant of the city's troubled multimillion-dollar music theater, according to city leaders.

Earlier this month, the City Council authorized city attorney Gilbert Chichester to file a lawsuit to try to evict Lafayette Gatling and his company from the Roanoke Rapids Theatre.

Gatling agreed last year to a $12.5 million plan to buy the venue in an effort to help erase debt incurred from the project.

In April, the City Council voted to terminate its lease-purchase agreement with him over $182,000 in late payments.

City Manager Paul Sabiston said that although the city has asked Gatling to leave, he's still there.

The lawsuit is also trying to recoup the money Gatling owes the city, which is now in excess of $240,000, Sabiston said.

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 5 cents to pay its bills.