Downtown club Speakeasy sues landlord, claims bogus eviction bid


The current lease for Speakeasy, which opened nearly two decades ago, is set to expire on July 1.

The three-level nightclub says it would like to stay put at its current location, 412 Congress Ave.

The owners of Speakeasy are heading to court, claiming their landlord is trying to force the popular bar out of its current location under false pretenses.

Rally in the Alley Limited, the entity that owns Speakeasy, filed suit in Travis County’s 419th District Court on Monday against Bears & Sons USA LLC, asking a judge to intervene in the dispute, saving the bar — known for its 1920s vibe, performances by local musicians and rooftop terrace — from having to close.

The current lease for Speakeasy, which opened nearly two decades ago, is set to expire on July 1, according to court documents. The three-level nightclub says it would like to stay put at its current location, 412 Congress Ave., and claims its existing lease gives it a pair of five-year renewal options.

But on May 3, Bears & Sons sent a letter claiming Speakeasy had committed “various breaches” and that the bar needed to pay “a substantial sum of money” or its lease would be terminated, according to the lawsuit. That notice came at a time when Bears & Sons was reportedly trying to sell the building, according to the lawsuit.

An online search of Travis Central Appraisal District records on Wednesday indicated the building is still owned by Bears & Sons. The building is currently valued at $6 million by the appraisal district.

“During the course of marketing the property, Bears & Sons has represented that it stands to make more from the sale if Rally is not a tenant,” the lawsuit says.

An attorney for Bears & Sons declined to comment on the claims made in the lawsuit when contacted by the American-Statesman.

Speakeasy says many of the allegations in the letter weren’t specific enough for the bar and its staff to act upon, calling them “completely unsupported by detail, context or documentation.” Others were allegedly from as far back as 2012.

The letter reportedly demanded that Speakeasy pay a total of $479,585, including $133,938 in additional rent. To avoid being declared in default, Speakeasy said it produced a check for $133,938 – the allegedly unpaid rent – on May 8, along with a response to claims made by Bears & Sons and instructions that the check be held in a trust for the time being.

Another letter followed last week, according to Speakeasy’s filing, increasing the remaining balance due to $347,647.54.

“Although the June 15 letter provides greater detail than the original letter, it continues to speak in generalities, does not give supporting documentation for prior expenses and fails to provide sufficient detail to allow Rally to address all of the issues raised in the letter.

“Rally asserts that Bears & Sons is trying to manufacture grounds to terminate Rally’s lease in order to sell the property for a higher price.”

Speakeasy’s lawsuit seeks, among other things, for a judge to find that the letters were not “proper, reasonable and specific”; that the landlord should cooperate with its tenant; and that the bar is not in default of its lease. The filing says additional requests will likely follow.

A court date has not been set.

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