In the ongoing battle to stay put in their Union Square digs, the Bovis Family, owners of the Gold Dust Lounge, have filed a lawsuit against their landlords Handlery Hotels today in an attempt to halt the impending March 10th move-out deadline. The complaint filed in San Francisco County Superior Court today claims that the Handlerys have a history of sneaking in shorter and shorter termination clauses in to the lease agreement and begins dramatically with: "This case can be summarized in two words — greed and deceit."
As GrubStreet points out, the Gold Dust Lounge's lease agreement shrank over the past 20 years from giving 18 months eviction notice in case of demolition or "extreme alteration of the building" to only 90 days notice with no reason needed. Additionally, there are also allegations that the Handlerys also threatened the lease at Lefty O'Doul's — which the Bovis Family also owns — in order to get them to give up the Gold Dust without putting up a fight. Also worth mentioning is the fact that both Bovis brothers are in their eighties, meaning the attempts to intimidate them also constitute elder abuse.
All told, brothers James and Tasios Bovis claim six complaints including: intentional misrepresentation, breach of good faith, a business and professions code violation, breach of contract, elder abuse and injunctive relief. According to the Bovises lawyer Justin Berger, "The lawsuit is not just about saving the Gold Dust, but also about protecting small business — and especially small business owned by senior citizens."
The Handlerys, on the other hand, had their PR flack Sam Singer ready to release another pun-filled statement as soon as the lawsuit dropped. The statement, titled "Gold Dust Lounge Lawsuit is Alchemy, Fiction. Legal Malarkey Will Not Change Bar’s Lease Expiration Date", claims that the Bovises have known they could be evicted in such circumstances since at least 2005, and agreed in writing to the loose termination clause when they renewed in 2011. And then, of course, Singer and Co. take another stab at the validity of the bar's "historic" status, claiming much of the history is fabricated:
For instance, Bing Crosby never owned the bar, nor, as their sign falsely claims, has the Gold Dust been in business since 1933. If anything, they bar should be cautious it isn’t cited for false advertising.
So what happens next? Hopefully for the Lounge, a judge will grant an injunction to block the eviction once litigation begins, although they're looking at a tight schedule with the March 10th deadline only two weeks away. And then there's the matter of the application for landmark status — the Historic Preservation Commission put off that decision until March 21st. Even if the Commission decides against declaring the bar an historic landmark, as San Francisco's Don Willie Brown pointed out the Board of Supervisors will still have to approve whatever happens to the space next (it's now rumored to be getting a CVS according to Grubstreet). Given what we know about the Board's anti-formula retail stance, the Handlerys could end up with a big empty space on their hands.
Previously: "Tawdry" Bar Needs To Go, Say Gold Dust Lounge Landlords
All Gold Dust Lounge Coverage on SFist