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Private funding could save Corner Pub from foreclosure auction

Having money embezzled, bad economy and closing of nearby Washington County Hospital has hurt business

September 27, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • The Corner Pub, a downtown gathering place for more than a quarter of a century is scheduled for a foreclosure auction in October. However, co-owner Darryl Sword said an infusion of private funding could forestall a sale.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

The Corner Pub, a downtown gathering place for more than a quarter of a century is scheduled for a foreclosure auction in October, although co-owner Darryl Sword said an infusion of private funding could forestall a sale.

Sword said a series of problems — having money embezzled, the bad economy and the closing of nearby Washington County Hospital — led to “a tight situation” for the business that opened on South Mulberry Street 26 years ago.

The possibility of a sale, however, appears to have been averted, Sword said Thursday.

“It’s private financing, and I think it’s set,” Sword said Thursday of the business’ efforts to satisfy the promissory note.

The news was a relief to some of the customers in the black walnut-paneled tavern Thursday.

“I don’t want to see anything happen to this place,” said Albert Bussard, a patron of nine years. “If they close this place, they’re closing a good place.”

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“It’s like ‘Cheers.’ Everybody knows everybody here,” Bussard said.

“You can’t beat this place,” said Chris Embrey, who has been frequenting the tavern for about five years. “The bartenders are amazing. The people who fix the food are amazing.”

Angel Leach was working behind the bar as a few customers finished their lunches. After 16 years, The Corner Pub is more than a job, she said.

“It is a second home. It helped me go through college,” Leach said. “It’s a great place. I love it here — obviously — after 16 years.”

While she’s had “regular jobs,” Leach said the pub has always been “a safety net.”

A legal notice of a substitute trustees’ sale, scheduled for Oct. 10, was published Tuesday in The Herald-Mail. The notice states that the sale will include the bar and restaurant at 154-158 S. Mulberry St. and a parking lot at 208-214 Frederick St., owned by the pub’s parent company, Antietam Tavern Inc.

Documents filed with the Washington County Clerk of Court’s Office state that brothers Darryl S. and Vernon L. Sword, owners of the business, borrowed $350,000 from Susquehanna Bank in June 2006, the terms of which were modified in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

Antietam Tavern Inc. was listed as the guarantor of the loan and provided the bank with an indemnity deed of trust on the properties, court records said.

“Defaults occurred under the terms and conditions of the Loan Documents due to the failure of the borrowers and the Defendant to repay the outstanding balance due” when the note matured in June, court records said.

In July, Susquehanna Bank appointed a Baltimore law firm, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP, as substitute trustees.

Darryl and Vernon’s father, James Sword, operated Antietam Tavern on Antietam Street beginning in 1964, Darryl Sword said.

The family transferred the license from the tavern to The Corner Pub in 1986, Darryl Sword said.

The business lost money at the hands of its then-bookkeeper, Craig Spriggs, who was convicted of stealing $239,190 between 2004 and 2007, according to Washington County Circuit Court records.

Spriggs was convicted of theft scheme over $500, and received a 15-year suspended sentence and five years on probation, court records said. Spriggs paid some restitution prior to sentencing and was ordered to pay $159,190 in monthly installments, court records said.

“That’s what started this whole merry-go-round,” Darryl Sword said of the money losses. Resitution is still being paid, he said.

The economy went into recession in 2008 which “was a double-whammy ... We definitely took a hit,” he said. “Then the hospital, with 2,000 employees, closed two years ago ... that was a major hit.” 

Besides employees who would stop by after work for a meal or drink, The Corner Pub also did a very good business delivering meals to hospital workers, he said.

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