Tom Kiefaber, former owner of the Senator Theatre, was released from jail Tuesday and gave his own account of events leading to his arrest Monday at the cinema, denying that he has trespassed and harassed the current owners.
Kiefaber had been charged Monday with trespassing and taken to Central Booking downtown. Later that day, a Baltimore district judge issued a temporary peace order prohibiting Kiefaber from contacting Kathleen Cusack, who operates the Senator along with her father, James "Buzz" Cusack. The Cusacks had filed charges against Kiefaber on Saturday, accusing him of several instances of trespassing, harassment and littering.
Kiefaber said Tuesday that he had not trespassed on Senator property or harassed the Cusacks but admitted to disposing of items Monday in their trash bin. Kiefaber said he went to the bin outside the Senator to dispose of refuse for a friend, which included a tree stump, a ladder and part of a kitchen cabinet. There, he says, he observed an artwork — a 6-foot-tall, brass mandala that he bought and installed 30 years ago — being removed from the theater.
"I told them that it was mine," he said. "They said 'No it wasn't.' ... As soon as that thing goes out the door it will be on eBay."
Kiefaber said he called 911. When officers arrived, things quickly unraveled. While Kiefaber said he was talking to officers about the artwork, he said Buzz Cusack emerged, accusing him of trespassing. Shortly thereafter, Kiefaber was handcuffed and taken to Central Booking. He was released on his own recognizance around midnight.
In describing the incident Monday, Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi had said police were called to the York Road theater, where Kiefaber was being "unruly and inappropriate." He was making threats and refused to leave, Guglielmi said.
Separately Tuesday, the Cusacks said they expected renovation and expansion of the historic building to be completed in time for a March 2013 opening.
"Everything's ready to go," said Kathleen Cusack, who obtained a 40-year lease to run the theater after it was purchased at a foreclosure auction by Baltimore city in 2010. The Cusacks closed the theater in April and, at the time, projected a Christmas 2012 reopening. "This is a complicated project," Cusack said. "Financing takes time."
Work has begun on putting new seats in the main auditorium and restoring wall and ceiling murals. An old oil tank was removed from the property last week. Also under way are improvements to the men's and women's restrooms, to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Baltimore City building code. More stalls are being added to both restrooms, Cusack said.
The $3 million project calls for three additional movie screens at The Senator, one on the south side of the building and two to the north. In addition, a cafe with outside seating is planned for space on the north side of the building, facing York Road, where a dry-cleaning business used to operate. The configuration of the existing auditorium will remain largely untouched, she said, although the seating capacity will be reduced from about 900 seats to 770.
Work since April has concentrated on the roof and interior walls, Cusack said. The roof over the entrance lobby has been stabilized, she said, allowing interior work there to begin.
"The main issue was with the roof," she said. Most of the current work is being done inside the theater, she said.
The Cusacks are fronting $1 million of the project's cost. The remaining $2 million includes $300,000 in state and federal tax credits, some $300,000 from a state Community Legacy Grant and the remainder in public and private loans, Cusack said.