Reaping man: Lottery saves Outback Lodge
Preston Avenue nightclub owner Terry Martin figures he was about a week from losing everything he'd worked for. The phone had been cut off. He couldn't pay to renew his liquor license, and the $15,000 he'd recently spent renovating the Outback Lodge appeared wasted, as he was drowning in debt. That is, until fate intervened. He won the lottery–- $100,000 worth.
The timing of his August 13 win and the $71,000 after-taxes giant check couldn't have been better for Martin.
"I was the brokest I've ever been," says Martin, who was also reeling from bad publicity and a whole lot of police attention stemming from a November shooting in his parking lot after a hip-hop event at his new downstairs dance hall, Club OBL.
But the threat hanging over his head was the imminent loss of his liquor license.
"I never lost it," explains Martin. "But it was so bad I couldn't afford to pay it." When the fee is due, license holders must stop serving and have 15 days to renew, says Martin, after which, he would have had to wait 90 days to apply again.
"I stopped serving," he says. "That hurt, but I still honored my shows."
With bands playing before soda-drinking fans and with three days to go before his liquor license got a 90-day shelving, Martin, who estimates he spends $100 a week on the lottery, stopped at the Shell station on Preston Avenue and put $5 on computer-generated Cash 5 tickets.
"It's just as slick as picking them yourself," he advises, "and if you look at the odds, more winners are random generated."
Unlike some lottery winners who quit work or go yacht-shopping, Martin is pouring Lady Luck's windfall into the Outback, where he's worked for 13 years and which he's owned for two.
He quickly renewed his liquor license, paid his phone bill, painted the club, and he threw a musicians' appreciation party. He paid most of a note he owed on the club, but he wasn't out of the woods yet.
Martin owed the City meals tax payments, and was issued a summons. He's gotten them before–- this one was his fifth in past few years–- and paid them before he went to court, he says. So he was a little perturbed to find NBC29 reporting that he'd been arrested 10 times. (NBC29 issued a correction.)
The bad news didn't end there. About a week ago, on September 1, two men were arrested in an early-morning melee in the parking lot, this time not on hip-hop night but on salsa night.
With all the bad publicity and with most of Charlottesville's music venues controlled by a deep-pocketed music mogul or an arena-based management company, some of Martin's friends are asking why he didn't pocket his winnings and walk away from the Outback Lodge.
"It was meant to be," says Martin of the club. "It's been here 17 years, and we have a better music line up than a lot of places. It's known nationally, and rock musicians say, 'Finally, a real rock club.'"
Martin doesn't describe his lottery win as luck. "I call it more karma or a blessing," he says. "My dad always said you reap what you sow."
And Martin immediately began sowing– by giving $1,000 to the cashier who sold him the winning ticket. And after those dark days a month ago when he thought the Outback Lodge was doomed, Martin wants people to know it's cleaned up, "with no more crazy hip-hop going on," he says. "That's what's getting me. Everybody getting sketched out, and the press was on it."
Continues Martin, "We're trying to get a reputation for good music and as a cool place to be."
He's defied the odds before.