Liam Flynn's Ale House, the Irish/Scottish pub in Station North that hosts art shows and concerts of folk and traditional music, is facing eviction. Owner Liam Flynn has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $50,000 in seven days to pay off past debts and relocate.
On the GoFundMe page, Flynn describes the situation: "We are locked into a Lease that has a terrible percentage rent clause. In it, the more money we make the more we owe. We built this bar from scratch in the old North Avenue Market Building. We want to stay but it is economically unfeasible at this point. Our landlords have refused to negotiate and served us with an Notice of Eviction for July 20, 2016. So the clock is ticking."
The post goes on to say the $50,000 would be used to pay off the percentage rent owed to the landlords at Center City, Inc., keep the staff of 15, and find a new location, in Station North or somewhere else centrally located.
At issue is the lease agreement at the North Avenue Market space leased by Flynn. The spaces in the market are initially given free or reduced rent and financial help building out the space by the owners, Center City Inc., in exchange for a percentage of future sales.
Carolyn McGuire-Frenkil, one of the partners in Center City, Inc., says the model helps young entrepreneurs get established and has a proven track record.
"They've all been successful, including Liam's. Extremely successful," she said in a phone interview, calling the closing of the bar "sad and unfortunate."
In notes provided to City Paper, Flynn outlines the costs incurred over the years. Initially, using the liquor license that covers the entire market cost a $500 fee and 15 percent of gross sales. After he was listed on a liquor license under his own name, Flynn had to pay 10 percent of gross sales after $300,000.
Once the bar added a kitchen, sales doubled and he started exceeding the $300,000 mark, but the threshold at which he had to pay the landlords a portion of sales did not factor in the additional costs of hiring staff and buying food and kitchen supplies. He paid $15,000 in 2014 and $26,000 the following year. "The more success we had the more we would owe," he wrote.
McGuire-Frenkil says she and her business partner, Mike Schecter, opened the lease twice and negotiated new terms. In a phone interview, Flynn says one time was to get a new liquor license. All he could afford was a Class B, which required he add the kitchen and start selling food. The second time was an attempt to renegotiate the terms of the percentage rent that failed.
Flynn says he still owes Center City, Inc. $30,000 for their cut of his sales but can't afford it because he's only breaking even. He says he's been paying his rent month to month up until this month, which he hasn't paid yet because Center City, Inc. won't pro-rate the agreement by 10 days.
Flynn recently opened a second venture, Ó Flynn's Crab & Cask House, in Brooklyn, and still hopes to reopen Liam Flynn's Ale House in another space.
"Whether its caveat emptor or indentured servitude, I am happy the 8 years of stressing with Center City, Inc. is over with," he wrote in his notes. Despite that line, he says on the phone he'd be happy to stay on for the rest of the year under renegotiated terms.
Says McGuire-Frenkil: "It is only through Liam's actions or inactions that it has reached this point. Not something we wanted."