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Rebuilding After the Crash

Babes Boys Tavern looks beyond freak accident that left one dead

     After a car that seemed to be traveling at 80mph crashed through Babes Boys Tavern “like a bomb” at 1:29pm on October 24, the Tavern on the Hill is rebuilding.
     “It was horrifying,” said partner Debbie Zentz, who was thrown off a stool at the end of the bar into the bathroom. “It was like a bomb when off.”
     Lunch was in full swing, the dining room full. Location — on Marlboro Pike at Old Crain Highway, just off Rt. 301 not far north from its intersection with Rt. 4 — and homestyle cooking make the pub a popular lunch spot for the Prince George’s County courthouse crowd.
     “A case had let out for lunch late,” Zentz recounted and the police, judges and lawyers came in.” 
     Then Vernelle Robinson’s car came in, too, with explosive force.
     The Toyota plowed through the tables nearest the wall.
     “Two men had gotten up 30 seconds earlier,” Zentz told Bay Weekly, “or they would be dead.”
     Then the car, cascading furniture and debris flattened the next row of tables, where Isiah Pugh, 73, of Oxon Hill, a volunteer Boy Scout leader and first-time visitor to Babes Boys was lunching with Boy Scout district chair C. Philip Nichols Jr.
    “After the car came in, police officers eating lunch jumped into action along with patrons and got debris off the injured so they could assess the damage,” Zentz said.
     “Then everybody went outside and started calling 911. Help got there really quick, went in and got the injured out.
    There were “concussions, broken ribs and cheek bones,” Zentz said. “It was like being hit by car if you were walking across the street.”
    Pugh, who had been knocked into Nichols’ lap, died a week later from his injuries.
     As well as mourning, Zentz is tallying the costs.
    “It’s a nightmare,” she said. 
    The sedan-sized hole was promptly filled in and the cinderblock building shored up. “But we have to do all the rest: the floor, the ceiling, rebuilding.” 
    As well as damage to the building, the forced closing means lost business — during the year’s high season. “The Friday after was our Halloween party. We missed it,” she said. “Plus all the holiday parties, we won’t have that money, either.”
     Staff is suffering as well. “They cannot go get a job and say when Top of Hill reopens, we’re leaving,” Zentz said. To help tide them over, a GoFundMe page has been set up: www.gofundme.com/topofthehillemployees.
     Short of three weeks after the intrusion, husband and wife owners C.J. Wilson and Zentz met with their contractor to plan the recovery. 
    “A lot was destroyed, and the partition between bar and restaurant is gone. We’re figuring out what to do. We’ll probably change a few things around, maybe have an open concept,” she said. 
    Being back in business by Christmas is Zentz’s goal, with a reopening holiday party celebration.
    “We’re putting it back together as best we can and as soon as we can so our employees will have a place to work.”