SENATOR Theatre RFP: If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention!

Friends of The Senator and Citizens of Baltimore,

The bottom line in this, folks, is to help you understand that the city may take a considerable amount of your tax dollars and hand it to private business to use in a failed business model.

Does that sound like a “Get In On It” deal?

If that doesn’t make you angry right off, read on because you should know about a situation where Baltimore City government may approve a plan presented by the BDC that gives nearly three-quarters of a $1 million to a private business and the keys to the historic Senator Theatre for a $1 per year lease.

Sounds like a bad joke, doesn’t it?… Especially in these times, but it is not!

Taxpayers in a city facing proposed cuts to essential and emergency services expected to write checks amounting to $700,000 to the private business owners of The Charles Theatre.

  1. $100,000 grant – money that will never be repaid to the city coffers
  2. $600,000 loan (2% for 20 yrs)

We’re talking about an historic landmark in which the city already has invested approximately $1 million!

Think about it. They’re proposing going further into the hole, with taxpayer dollars, heading toward the $2 million mark in hopes the Cusacks can make the theatre viable and self-sustaining…

AND, considering the city will remain the landord, the building will be off the tax rolls and the city coffers will only get a cut IF the theatre is able to generate over $2 million per year – and even at that only 5%.

“In our dreams we would like to see that, but I don’t think we put much weight in that” coming to fruition, [Debra] Devan said.” (BDC Board Member in Balto. Sun)

Some of you are thinking, “Okay, well maybe they can pull it off, The Charles shows cool things and the owner has good industry connections”, consider the following:

  • The proposed bold, new revenue-generating format?… Not the art or classic films fans of The Charles know and love, but a continuation of 1st-run blockbuster features (Just like former-owner Tom Kiefaber used to do! You remember him – the guy who always got criticized for this?)
    Can we see a show of hands that believe this will draw any more people this time around?…
    And let’s be clear here, those of you who WANT 1st-run pictures back at The Senator, put your hands down. We count ourselves among those who miss 1st run films at The Senator, but this is about viability, people!
  • The man behind the plan doesn’t even sound very confident about the venture
    “Maybe it doesn’t work.” – James “Buzz” Cusack, Charles Theatre owner in MD Daily Record
  • Perhaps there are reasons for that
    • At the Senator RFP Public Meeting last fall an attendee asked Cusack if he could cite anyplace else in the country where his plan has worked. His response? “No.”
    • At the same meeting another asked, given the fact that the majority of historic redevelopment experts state the best chance of survival of theatres like The Senator are for them to become multipurpose arts, education & entertainment venues owned by non-profits, why he thought his plan would work – the response was, “I don’t know”.
    • Clearance. Something that, particularly independent theatre owners, have had to deal with quite some time.
      When a film Cusack has at The Senator has declining ticket sales he can be blocked from moving it down to The Charles by the Landmark Theatres downtown, because of their proximity. This means the movie is stuck at The Senator and the owner loses considerable money without a fresh attraction.

SENATOR Lobby b&wIf handing over all that public money to a business that is likely not to succeed hasn’t already teed you off, consider the fact that the plan also includes demolition of portions of the walls of the iconic circular outer lobby and the mens’ and ladies’ lounges and restrooms? These are distinct historical/architectural features Cusack proposes to destroy in the city’s $1 million – $1.7 million investmentMr. Cusack sits on the board of the city’s Commission for Historical & Architectural Preservation. Ironic, isn’t it?

We strongly encourage you to let Mayor Rawlings-Blake (or use our letter), Comptroller Joan Pratt and the Board of Estimates know how you feel on this issue!


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Not angry at all, actually I am very excited. Hopefully this can be approved soon so the senator can start drawing a crowd again.

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