Dorchester venue behind on loan
Greer Toney, owner and general manager of Chez Vous, could lose her business to auction. (Matthew J. Lee/ Globe staff)
After years struggling to provide a haven for city youths, Chez Vous roller rink has again fallen prey to fiscal troubles and is set to go on the auction block on Wednesday, Greer Toney, the rink's owner and general manager, said yesterday.
The 77-year-old Dorchester landmark will be sold, Toney said, because she failed to pay the latest mortgage bill. Chez Vous has faced foreclosure in the past and was operating on an agreement with its creditors that it would be auctioned off if it missed a mortgage payment. A letter from creditors at the beginning of the month warned that the auction would go forward if the payment is not made.
Toney said she doesn't have the money to pay.
She said she used the money, about $10,000, to finance the rink's second annual Peace Night, held last Wednesday. Rapper Bow Wow was slated to perform, but his manager cancelled the performance at the last minute, citing safety concerns.
"I couldn't believe it," she said. "I can't believe that any superstar like Bow Wow would do this."
She said she had to refund 500 tickets, which cost $35 each. Because some expenses had to be paid for in advance, Toney said that she had to use personal funds to reimburse ticket-holders. Neither Bow Wow, whose name is Shad Gregory Moss, nor his manager could be reached for comment last night.
Toney said that Rhodes Street, where the rink is located, was shut down by police the night of the concert and that there were close to 50 people working security inside. The rink is behind the Area B-3 police station, which is at Blue Hill Avenue and Morton Street.
The rink is an important part of the community because it offers an alternative to the gang culture that has dominated Dorchester and Mattapan, Toney said.
The Peace Night concert was held to encourage youths to abandon violence. "I've gone to so many funerals, and I'm tired. I'm sick and tired," Toney said. "We came up with the idea to bombard these kids with peace."
In 2006, Chez Vous owed the city more than $80,000 in unpaid taxes, but city officials said they were committed to keeping the business open and set up a payment plan for the rink.
In the past, Mayor Thomas M. Menino helped secure money to keep Chez Vous in business. But now, because of the financial problems plaguing the city, officials are unable to step in and help the rink stay open, said Nick Martin, a spokesman for the mayor. "This time around, the city is not in a financial position to help them out," he said.
Toney said teens often bring their homework to Chez Vous, and older students help younger ones with difficult coursework. She said parents are allowed in for free to encourage adults to be more active in the lives of their children.
"They may be fighting [on the streets], but now you get to know someone in here," she said.
Chez Vous has not always been a haven for peace. In January 1994, hooded gunmen stormed into the rink and opened fire, injuring seven people.
Bruce Wall, pastor of Global Ministries Christian Church, conducted outreach and church services at Chez Vous from 1988 to 1992, when the rink was under different ownership. He described the venue as one of the last places teens could go to escape the streets.
"It was one of the few places left where young people felt like they had a place, like they had a home," Wall said. "To not have that anymore, I feel like it's a major death."
At the rink last night, teens described Chez Vous as an alternative to gang culture.
Ty Avonterogers, 14, said a friend brought him to Chez Vous a few years ago. Now he comes so frequently that he owns his own skates.
"I come here a lot. There's a gang on my street," Avonterogers said last night. "There used to be nothing for me to do."