Eagle Tavern closes
by Seth Hemmelgarn
The owners of San Francisco's Eagle Tavern appear to have rejected bids to buy it this week, after the troubled bar closed over the weekend. One of the prospective buyers of the tavern said he's done trying.
The bar, at 398 12th Street, shut down Saturday night as the bar's owners apparently owe their landlord almost $18,000 in rent.
Mark Frazier, who owns the Dallas Eagle in Texas, said that he and Ron Hennis, who managed the San Francisco Eagle, made an offer to owners John Gardiner and Joseph Banks Tuesday night to buy the business.
He said he had told them in the offer letter that they had until 9 p.m. Pacific time Tuesday to respond, which they didn't. He's assuming that means they rejected the offer.
Frazier and Hennis said that Gardiner and Banks were talking to other potential buyers, but neither of the hopeful buyers would say whom. They also wouldn't say how much they had offered for the business.
Frazier said he's done trying to buy the Eagle unless an offer Gardiner and Banks were apparently working on Wednesday falls through.
"I am not going to initiate any more offers," said Frazier. "John and Joe both know I have an interest, so should something happen, they can come back to me."
He had announced last week that he was dropping out of negotiations. He said he had returned to the process, "because I thought there was another opportunity, and I did not want to give up on San Francisco."
The home to well-loved Sunday beer busts, which raise money for numerous LGBT groups, Gardiner and Banks had been trying to sell the Eagle for more than a year.
Throughout April, community members worked to keep the bar LGBT-oriented, after it looked like it might be sold to the owner of a different bar, raising fears the business could go straight. That deal didn't happen.
Hennis appeared more hopeful than Frazier on Wednesday morning. It wasn't clear that he knew Frazier was leaving negotiations again.
He said that he hadn't heard anything from Gardiner and Banks, but he also said, "We didn t give them a deadline. ... If you do that, that just turns them off." He also said that if the offer were rejected, he'd keep trying.
Hennis said that he and Frazier had made a previous offer Sunday, but "They said it wasn't enough."
Late last week, as word began circulating that the Eagle's days were quickly drawing to a close, some patrons hoped a solution could be found.
Parrel "Pipeman" Mortimer, a regular, said that for him and many others there is no bar that can replace the Eagle, which he called a "community treasure."
There was a full house on Saturday, April 30, the bar's last night.
Behind on rent
It appears the Eagle has experienced financial difficulties for some time.
According to the unlawful detainer complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court on April 19, Gardiner and Banks, who own the liquor license, owe $17,767 in rent on the bar. Landlord John Nikitopoulos filed the complaint through the San Francisco firm Lipton, Piper and Sganga, LLP.
The court documents list the Constantinos I. and Anthanasia Nikitopoulos Trust as the plaintiff. John Nikitopoulos is the trustee.
The summons that accompanies the eviction complaint says the owners had five calendar days to respond in writing, which court records indicate they haven't done. The summons says, "If you do not file your response on time, you may lose the case by default," and property may be taken "without further warning from the court."
According to the court documents, which the Bay Area Reporter examined, Gardiner and Banks, operating as Hole in the Wall Saloon Inc., had agreed to pay $7,525 a month for the period beginning April 1, 2005 and ending March 31, 2010. The documents include a copy of the lease.
The agreement had been increased to $8,691.98 beginning September 1, 2010, according to the complaint.
The documents indicate that on March 7, 2011, a notice to pay rent or quit was delivered to Gardiner and another was posted at the Eagle.
In a letter dated that same day, attorney Jonathan L. Piper said partial rent payments had been made, but about $9,076 was still due for the period December 2010 through March 2011.
The letter said that within three days after the document was served to Gardiner and Banks, they were to pay the rent or hand over the premises, or legal proceedings would be brought to recover possession of the premises and recover rents and damages.
The complaint lists the fair rental value of the premises as $289 per day. The complaint says that Nikitopoulos is requesting possession of the premises and costs including past-due rent of $17,767; attorney fees; and damages at the rate of $289 for each day Gardiner and Banks "remain in possession through entry of judgment."
Gardiner, who didn't respond to interview requests for this story, previously said that the bar's lease expired more than a year ago, so "I guess it goes month to month." Banks also didn't respond to an interview request.
Richard Romano, the bar owners' attorney, declined to comment.
Nikitopoulos and Arthur Lipton, an attorney representing him, didn't respond to interview requests.