New Deal Café Annual Meeting
The New Deal Café is Greenbelt’s community living room. It opened its doors in 1995 as a part-time café in the Community Center and moved to Roosevelt Center in 2000. The café is one of Greenbelt’s seven active cooperatives and is run by a Board of Directors and a general manager. The cooperative’s 2012 annual membership meeting was held in the café on May 20.
This display in the hallway shows many special events held at the New Deal Café this past year including Greenbelt’s first artists studio tour; a book signing by John Guernsey, weekend pianist for the café; an author talk, book signing and wine-tasting party for Todd Kliman, columnist for the Washingtonian magazine; Greenbelt Blues Festival; a sing-along to celebrate the city’s 75th anniversary; a performance by Buck Hill, Greenbelt’s own jazz legend; and New Year’s Eve celebration.
Michael Hartman, president of the New Deal Café’s Board of Directors, gives the board’s report. He receives a round of applause when he opens by saying that the café’s debts to banks and creditors were paid off in 2011. He continues to say that the board adopted the board-manager operational model and a general manager was hired during this past year from four applicants. There are now two paid staff members–the general manager, Terri Rutledge, who is responsible for administrative control and day-to-day operation of the café and the bar manager, Amethyst Dwyer, who is in charge of the operation of the bar. He concludes by saying that relations with the restaurant manager Chef Karim are good and everything is working well. “The Board is pleased to report that the state of the cooperative is very good!”
Terri Rutledge, who has been the café’s general manager for the past 13 months, gives the GM’s report. She says that the café has worked well with restaurant manager Karim Kmaiha for four years, and their 5-year contract will be up for renewal toward the end of next year. The bar has also been successful under bar manager Amethyst Dwyer, and bar staff and volunteers were trained in Alcohol Awareness (fake ids etc). The many music performances, art exhibits, and special events that the New Deal Café is known for were also carried out well. “New Deal Café continues to become more prominent in the metro area as a significant venue for local music!” She goes on to list new improvements such as new air conditioner in the back room, new stage lights, and new projector screen.
Chef Karim, a Lebanon native, receives applause when Rutledge mentions that he “took a much-delayed trip to Lebanon for 3 weeks.”
The discussion then turns to the 2011 financial report and the 2012 budget. Here Bill Wilkerson is the treasurer of the cooperative. In 2011, the co-op received $107,646 from bar income and $16,231 from contract fee with Chef Karim. The big spending items were beer and wine cost ($37,477), payroll ($27,098), debt and load payments ($24,648), and air conditioning project ($12,704).
Peter May recalls “the desperate, dark days” in 2007. The café was heavily in debt, and he and Bill Wilkerson were personally liable for tens of thousands of dollars had the café defaulted. May tells that there were people who gave the co-op checks in thousands of dollars and “made them all feel a connection.” Now all bank loans have been paid off and the only remaining debts are member loans and the city kitchen debt.
Turning to the 2012 budget, Mike Stark questions the significant increase in payroll expense to $46,474. He recalls the days when the co-op was run by volunteers.
Lore Rosenthal comments that the café now is a well-known music venue and a serious restaurant. She says that when her brother comes over here from D.C., “he expects his food hot and beer cold.” She thinks that the café needs to have a professional staff and they should “step it up and invest in people.”
Bill Jones, today’s emcee, announces that there are four open seats on the board: three two-year terms and one one-year term.
Current board member Ed James is running for reelection. He says that he has been involved in a lot of co-ops and he has business experience and can keep a team together.
Current board president Michael Hartman is running for another term. He says that he wants a larger membership base and to communicate more effectively with members.
Dorian Winterfeld says that he has volunteered at the café for ten years and has done many things over the years including maintaining the café’s website and Yahoo email group, setting up wireless internet, volunteering at the bar, serving on the audit committee, helping out with sound, painting walls, mopping the floor, and eating and drinking frequently here.
Neil McConlogue says that he wants to get the members involved with the café’s affairs.
Lisa Voith remembers the dark days, is proud of the café’s progress, and wants it to continue its improvement.
Craig Tooley thinks that the café has had a “long, long childhood” and is “passing out of its adolescence.”
Votes for the Board of Directors are being cast.
Don Comis, a board member who is not seeking reelection, acknowledges applause from members for his long-term service to the café.
Members then go on to discuss giving lifetime co-op memberships to several members who have contributed greatly to the café. Here Barbara Stevens is one of the four. The others are Peggy Barrott, Mike Mulaney, and her husband Ray Stevens.
The four lifetime memberships are approved.
Amethyst Dwyer reports for the music committee which arranges and books musical performances at the café. She says that café has had a good year having live music six nights a week from many genres including “folk, Americana, rock and roll, jazz, blue, African, country, klezmer, Middle Eastern, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Celtic, Renaissance, German…” There were several 75th anniversary events including an 18-piece big band. In March 2011, a poetry night open mic was started as a monthly program, and the Crazy Quilt Festival in June and Blues Festival in September were both successful.
Barbara Simon reports for the art committee which is responsible for art shows and artists receptions at the café and Friends of the New Deal Café Arts (FONDCA). She specifically mentions the first studio tour participated by 13 Greenbelt artists. It was a very well received event and she says that other artists have expressed interest in participating in the future. She asks people to see details about FONDCA in the green handout.
Barbara Stevens announces that she, Don Comis and others are preparing a history of the New Deal Café which is due out in April 2015. She asks for volunteers.
William O’Grady is one of five candidates to fill three one-year terms on the audit committee. He recalls coming to the unassuming New Deal Café to get coffee and was greatly surprised to find Turkish coffee available from Chef Karim.
Tom LeaMond says that he has been away for a long time, is now back and wants to contribute. LeaMond once was the bar manager.
Mike Stark says that he is strong in finance and has volunteer experience including running a 80-member co-op college dining hall.
Ronnie Scotkin says that she has been involved with the café since its days in the Community Center. She was a former board member and negotiated contract with Chef Karim. She says that her experience as a policy and research analyst can help her to look from all sides.
Lori Denn says that she has lived in Old Greenbelt since 2005 and has been a frequent patron. She has worked at a restaurant and bar for 20 years, was previously a business owner and knows financial statements.
Votes for the 3-member audit committee are collected.
The election result is that Michael Hartman, Lisa Voith and Dorian Winterfeld will serve two-year terms on the board of directors and Neil McConlogue will serve one year. For the audit committee, the membership chooses William O’Grady, Tom LeaMond, and Mike Stark. Today’s meeting presentation can be downloaded as a pdf file here.