I figured there was something of a tug-of-war going on when the story dropped yesterday that Lefty O'Doul's might have to close and relocate after serving up stiff drinks and steam-table corned beef for nearly 60 years in the same spot at 333 Geary Street. As of last night, local PR fixer Sam Singer had stepped in representing the Handlery family, who are the owners of the property, and their version of what's going on here differs from that of Lefty O'Doul's longtime manager Nick Bovis, who said Thursday that a lease negotiation had collapsed after landlord Jon Handlery refused to provide improvement allowances for the aging bar-restaurant space. According to a statement from the Handlerys, Lefty's isn't moving and will only be briefly closed for a refurbishment, and they'll just be hiring a new manager and staff.
"The Lefty O’Doul bar and restaurant property, its memorabilia, and the interior contents (with the exception of its staff and big screen TVs) are all the property of the Handlerys and will remain with them," says Singer's statement, meaning that Bovis's claim on Thursday that he would be retaining the name somehow recreating the interior in another nearby location might present some legal trouble.
From the statement:
The Handlerys leased the bar and restaurant to the legendary Lefty O’Doul and his partner in 1958. A succession of managers have operated the establishment over its almost 60 years of business. The most current manager of the establishment is Mr. Nick Bovis and his partners, who have been the tenants for approximately 16 years. Their lease ends Feb. 3 and they have publicly pledged to move out on that date.
Meanwhile, a press conference scheduled by Bovis and his team for 10 a.m. this morning, at which point he suggested he might already have a new location to announce, has been rescheduled for 2 p.m. Monday. In a release about the rescheduling, Bovis refers to himself as Lefty O'Doul's "OWNER" (scare quotes his), and he says he'll be bringing "Burlingame Super Lawyer" Joe Cotchett (scare quotes ours).
The battle here is clearly a long one, the details of which we may never know, but we at least know that Bovis and Handlery have been at odds since at least five years ago, when a very public dustup occurred over the fate of the Gold Dust Lounge. The Gold Dust had been a bar in the same location at 247 Powell Street (also part of Handlery's property on the block) since at least the 1930s, and Bovis and many of the bar's fans attempted to get some historic protection for it after Handlery decided to end the bar's lease in 2012 a new retail tenant upstairs, Express, wanted the space to construct a Powell Street entrance and escalator. Bovis was the manager and owner of the Gold Dust.
Bovis ended up losing that fight and deciding to relocate the Gold Dust, and its contents, to Fisherman's Wharf, where it sits today in a fairly different form at 165 Jefferson Street, with some of the same regulars.
At least in this case, they're not talking about shutting down a beloved old bar, though it remains to be seen how much of the dingy charm of Lefty O'Doul's will remain once the renovation effort is complete.
Per the statement:
After the restaurant closes Feb. 3, a renovation and refurbishment will begin. The memorabilia and interior of property will be part of the establishment in its new form.
We don’t have a grand re-opening date yet, but rest assured that Lefty’s will reopen under new and improved management in the same location at 333 Geary as part of the Handlery Hotel family of properties.
"New form" could mean anything. Stay tuned.