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The Rex to be resurrected in Leonardtown

The Alcohol Beverage Board of St. Mary’s County approved a a 90-day conditional allowance for the former Rex Theater in Leonardtown, setting the stage for a revitalization of one of the most modern historic sites in the town—the old movie theater.

While various businesses over time have thought they would restore the old theater, for most in recent memory the site has been a Mexican restaurant. Joseph P. Kurley III, Trayhan Marcus Thomas and Christopher A. Jeys appeared before the board July 10 to request a Class B beer, wine and liquor license and permission for extension of the premise for outdoor seating.

Kurley and Jeys talked to the board, but Thomas was not present, prompting Kurley to call his partner to have a fax sent authorizing the two men to represent him at the meeting.

“He’s listed on the license, so you have got to have something that gives you permission to speak on his behalf,” Chairman Moses P. Saldaña Jr. said. “For this license, it’s the three of you held accountable. The responsibility for the license is more of a legal matter.”

Once that issue was settled, the board got to hear of plans to renovate the old building.

“I am a 14-year vet of the bar industry,” Kurley told the board. “I was in charge of the Tiki Bar security. At the bar, management training was mandatory. I am aware of responsibility that goes with holding a liquor license. We’re very interested doing something different at the site. We’re bringing in the Lotus Kitchen [in Solomons], using their name and menu along with food ideas. We’re very excited to be here.”

The Rex was initially the New Theater and was built sometime in the late 1940s or early ‘50s. In the ealy ‘60s, a businessman from Baltimore, Jack Fruchtman, bought the theater and renamed it The Rex and managed it until its closure in the 1980s.

A group called The Friends of the Leonardtown Theatre had planned to raise funds to renovate the building and host events there.

“It was called The Rex about 40 or 50 years ago,” Kurley said. “We want to give our customers that old feeling from that time. We plan to have black and white pictures on Leonardtown, we have a gentleman who has some of the movie posters from the theater and gave me a little history of what they saw. We’re hoping to make it like a little museum with a little history.

“We will be offering burgers, wraps, crab cakes, fresh ideas, we plan to rotate the menu with the season,” he added. “It will be a good option for Leonardtown. We do a lot with local produce. It will be a family oriented. Here in town the local restaurants and fast food, there’s a lot of deep fried. We’re a little lighter.”

Kurley said, “it is in our plans to revitalize old movie theater, but starting out we need to get the front of building up to par, but working on the theater itself, that’s quite a ways away.”

Board Administrator Tamara Hildebrand suggested a 90-day conditional allowance to allow the owner to conclude renovations before inspections.

“He can’t get occupancy until he gets fire and health inspections,” she said. “I suggest up to 90 days because you’re an existing premise.”

Kurley was asked how late the establishment would serve alcohol and responded, “I don’t anticipate last call being after 1:15 a.m.”<

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