Courts To Decide Feud Between Beer Pub And Condos
On the outskirts of West University Place, a 5-year-old feud has grown as fierce as Wile E. Coyote vs. the Roadrunner. With allegations of name calling, egg throwing, water hosing and personal assault, the feud has now exploded into another front — The courts.
“It’s awful to have that kind of behavior,” said Paul Kellogg, co-owner of Hans’ Bier Haus, a popular pub and live music venue. “It’s a very laid-back place with very laid-back customers. We don’t want this type of abuse.”
On New Year’s Eve the owners of the pub on Quenby Street near Kirby Drive filed a civil lawsuit against a management company and residents at a neighboring 16-story building, the 2520 Robinhood at Kirby condominiums.
The suit alleges that three condo owners “initiated a long-running series of attacks on the beer garden and its customers,” and that Creative Management Company, which manages the property, didn’t do enough to stop the alleged attacks.
“It’s really a very small group of people over there that seem to have this problem with us,” Kellogg said. “They’ve told us before they won’t be satisfied until we are out of business. That’s just not acceptable. It’s not going to happen.”
But representatives of the company and the homeowners deny the attacks, and they accuse Hans’ Bier Haus of frequently playing music that is too loud, too late at night. Art Frederick, the general manager of the condos, said he bought a noise meter and clocked volume levels exceeding 90 decibels.
“I think, on a personal note, they have a right to have a business over there,” Frederick said. “But it needs to be within the restrains of the area.”
Although Frederick said he wants to “just get along” and Kellogg said he wants to “just coexist” both sides also hurl accusations that reveal a deep, longstanding rift that may be difficult to overcome.
The condos should never have been built next to the existing pub, Kellogg said. But Frederick countered that in 2005 when Kellogg and co-owner Bill Cave took over management, they shouldn’t have transformed the bar into a live-music venue since it was near the existing residential building.
The civil lawsuit says the three homeowners threw things like beer cans, bottles, water and eggs down on people in the Hans’ beer garden, an outdoor area that offers seating, bocce ball and live music.
An incident on Dec. 13 “was the last straw,” Kellogg said.
“We’ve been dealing with them for several years now and its always stayed at a nuisance level,” he said. “This really escalated things. It’s just far too serious to overlook.”
The lawsuit says that one of the homeowners turned on a “high-powered water sprinkler” aimed at customers and the band. It caused a hazard by soaking the band’s equipment, instruments and electrical cords, the suit said. One musician slipped on the water and broke his finger.
Police records show that someone at the pub called police to report criminal mischief, but just five minutes later another person called police from the condominiums to report an assault. Co-owner Cave had allegedly taken matters into his own hands to stop the deluge of water.
“I went to the reception desk and asked the concierge to turn the water off. He initially refused, but upon my continued insistence I was ultimately successful,” said Cave in an affidavit filed with the lawsuit.
Frederick, the condo’s manager, said that Cave grabbed a concierge by the neck tie, broke his cell phone, and dragged the man to the elevator, forcing him to the 4th floor where tenants live. Cave found the offending faucet on one of the homeowners’ balconies and turned the water off.
Defendants in the case deny that anyone from the condos did the things listed in the lawsuit.
“They’re very upset over the fact that those three were somehow singled out as being the perpetrators,” said Gary DeSerio, the attorney representing the three condo owners. “At this moment my clients have been restrained from doing something they’re not guilty of doing.”
He said one of his clients is thinking about filing his own civil lawsuit against Cave for the alleged assault on Dec. 13.
The 113th Judicial District Court already granted the bar owners’ request for a restraining order on the three homeowners to stop them from damaging the bar in any way. On Jan. 12 the court will decide whether to make the restraining order permanent. The lawsuit is also seeking punitive damages, saying the alleged attacks caused emotional distress and loss of business.
“Hopefully we can work out some arrangement where we can continue to have live music, which is all we do, and not face this type of abuse,” Kellogg said. “I hope we can work out something where we can just coexist.”
Frederick echoed the peaceful sentiments. But the live music part — Not so much.
“I would like to see everyone just get along, and them to respect they live in a residential area here,” Frederick said. “Those noise levels can’t be tolerated for this number of people.”