Tommie Broadwater Jr., who narrowly lost a bid to regain his old Maryland state Senate seat, also has lost his latest business, a restaurant and theater in Hyattsville in an old armory optimistically renamed the Castle.
Sheriff's deputies arrived at the building yesterday morning to enforce a District Court order evicting the business for being $60,000 behind in rent. They found the place deserted and stripped clean of tablecloths, chairs, barstools and most other items of value.
"We can't control all the financial problems in the country and the area," said Broadwater, who was not at the restaurant when deputies arrived. "You just keep trying. A quitter never wins and a winner never quits. Nobody likes to not make it in business, but you gotta keep moving, keep your chin up and try and try again."
In that spirit, Broadwater, who went to prison for food stamp fraud and theft, said he is considering a write-in campaign against Sen. Decatur Trotter, who beat Broadwater by 346 votes in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary.
Broadwater said the financial problems that led to yesterday's eviction are the domain of his partner, politically active Prince George's County lawyer John Lally. Lally brought Broadwater into the business several months ago, accepting his well-known name and restaurant experience in lieu of cash.
Broadwater's presence raised the profile of the Castle, as the restaurant became a gathering place for many of the county's black professionals and politicians. But it was not enough. "The place can make it, but we have financial problems over there," said Broadwater. "It's a big mess."
The Castle's cash problems surfaced in June, when a theater group pulled out, the Castle manager quit and a Takoma Park theater equipment firm removed its lights. Lally said his problems were compounded by the county's delay in leasing space in the building for arts groups.
The county agreement came through in July, but the bank that owns the Castle rejected its terms as inadequate and sought the eviction. Lally has countersued Capital Bank, a Florida lending institution.
Lally leased the building from the bank with an option to buy it for $2.1 million.
The Castle employed 30 people, Lally said. He said he hopes banquets and weddings that are booked for the place would be held in a hall at Summit School, a private school in Upper Marlboro, where Lally has a child enrolled.
At the Castle yesterday, someone had scrawled "We Shall Endure" on a blackboard inside the kitchen. A "Re-Elect Tommie Broadwater for State Senate" sign rested on a table in the bar.
A sign outside proclaimed, "Yes, We Are Open. Join Us for Lunch." But manager Marge Baltimore said, "There's nothing here, just another old, tired, worn restaurant closing up." Gee Curry, a friend who owns a tavern nearby, helped her remove what personal belongings were left.
"She worked very hard," Curry said. "It's very hurting to have a business die. It was picking up, definitely picking up."