Five years after reopening, the Washington D.C. Howard Theatre faces a lawsuit for $16,000 in unpaid invoices and accusations of not compensating employees, vendors and artists.  


Photo: Dino Perrucci

George Clinton - Howard Theatre, Washington, D.C.

Maryland-based vendor Belair Produce filed the lawsuit against Howard Theatre Entertainment on May 30, the Washington Post reported.

Several past managers and employees have accused the venue of late compensation and not paying vendors.

Rob Yealu, GM of the theatre until his resignation in April, told the paper that the theatre was having trouble paying bills and compensating artists.

He said none of the employees hired during his time as manager still work at the venue. “It’s because the checks bounced,” he told the paper. “It’s because we didn’t pay vendors. It’s because we didn’t pay talent.”

When employees filed complaints to Blue Note Entertainment Group, majority owner of Howard Theatre Entertainment, they allegedly rarely received a response. Steven Bensusan, president of Blue Note, said the allegations of vendors not being paid and checks bouncing were “just not true.”

Collin R. Haynes, chief executive officer of DCLA Productions, booked Keke Wyatt for a February date at the theatre. Haynes told the paper that payment checks returned insufficient funds after he deposited them.

The company received full payment after starting a social media campaign to demand payment from the venue. Myla Moss, chairwoman of the nonprofit organization that acts as landlord of the venue, said the theatre had not made rent since fall 2016.

She told the paper she plans to end the 20-year contract with Howard Theatre Entertainment. Bensusan told the Post that the company plans to stay for the full term. Blue Note did not return a request for further comment at press time.