Roanoke Theatre Deal Scrapped

Roanoke Rapids, N.C., city officials voted April 26 to cancel a $12 million lease-purchase contract with Lafayette Gatling’s L&M Hospitality to buy the Roanoke Rapids Theatre reportedly because of late payments.

Gatling and his attorney met with the city in late March to discuss a revised payment schedule but negotiations reportedly fell through, according to the city’s Daily News.

“I’m sorry we had to, but I think we had given Mr. Gatling every opportunity to meet his commitments and he was in default,” Councilwoman Suetta Scarbrough told the paper. “I think we have bent over backwards in being fair to L&M Hospitality.”

Gatling’s attorney, H. Lawrence Armstrong, said in a statement the council’s decision was unexpected.

“Lafayette Gatling Sr., through his company L&M Hospitality, has made a substantial investment in Roanoke Rapids Theatre property in his effort to bring quality entertainment to the theatre, acquire additional land and develop the entire Carolina Crossroads area,” the statement said. “Mr. Gatling was both surprised and disappointed.”

Roanoke officials are once again looking for ways to make the 1,500-capacity theatre, plagued by problems from the beginning, a profitable venture.

The city borrowed $22 million in 2005 to build the facility, originally named Randy Parton Theatre, as a potential tourist attraction. Parton, brother of Dolly Parton, was hired to manage the theatre as well as perform.

However, problems developed soon after opening when Parton failed to draw the desired crowds and was accused of performing drunk. The city eventually bought out Parton’s contract.