Plans to help raise funds for Greenbelt's New Deal Café
Feb. 14, 2001
Amy Boyes
Staff Writer

The New Deal Café in Greenbelt is working hard to turn around its recent financial woes with an aggressive fund-raising campaign that includes a series of live musical performances.

The cooperative has accumulated various debts including payroll taxes, sales tax, missed loan payments, and rent.

The café has been located in the Roosevelt Center shopping area in Old Greenbelt since April. It offers live music performances on some evenings, as well as breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert items.

Richard McMullin, a founding member and the current music director, said the café currently is taking in about enough money to cover day-to-day operations, but the outstanding debt remains.

"Ever since we told people we had a problem, we've pretty much had a full-house," he said.

Regular music performances typically are scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights and jazz sometimes is performanced on Wednesdays, along with various other entertainment on some Sundays. On regular evenings the performers play only for tips.

"The audience has been very supportive," McMullin said.

The first Friday of every month is designated for an open mic night, which can feature performances from various local musicians including a 4-year-old violinist.

In addition to a membership drive and other attempts to raise money, a musical series will begin on Saturday. The theme for the series is Slay the Dragon, which represents paying the debt, said Earl Kepler, a board member and chair of the fund-raising committee.

Kepler said his goal is pay off the debt to the vendors by June and for the remainder to be paid off by Labor Day.

Kepler became active in supporting the cooperative because he thought he had a lot to offer, he said. "I think [the café] has the potential of meeting the vision that the original founders had for it," which is to support the arts, Kepler said.

To begin the fund-raising campaign, one of a series of benefit concerts will be held at 8 p.m. in the Greenbelt Community Center, 15 Crescent Road, Greenbelt. The concert was designed to be of interest to people in their teens to early 20s, Kepler said. Three bands, Guys with Ties, Blackout and Liquid Solid, are scheduled to perform.

Joseph Pugliese, 16, a member of Guys and Ties, said the group plays a mixture of mostly old R&B and blues cover songs. The group comprises about nine members, most of whom are from Eleanor Roosevelt High School.

Pugliese, who plays guitar, drums and sings, said he has been playing at the café since he was in fifth grade.

"They provided an opportunity for me and I would like to see them offer opportunities to other young artists," he said. "It's just a very down to earth café."

Ben Kepler, 16, a member of Guys and Ties, also said he wants to see the café stay open.

"It's my source of income," he said. "Also, it's just a good place in the community."

McMullin said Blackout is made up of college students who are primarily from Montgomery County. The group, he said, plays mostly original songs.

Liquid Solid's members are from Virginia, he said, and they also play mostly original music. McMullin said Blackout and Liquid Solid do not play that often in Prince George's County, but both bands have a following.

Tickets for the event are $7. The price includes a chance to win a new mountain bike, which will be raffled at the event.