Historic Gold Dust Lounge staying open for now

(KGO)
March 9, 2012 8:16:51 PM PST
It won't be the last call for San Francisco's landmark Gold Dust Lounge this weekend. The building's owners have asked the bar to move out when its lease expires Saturday at midnight. But the brothers who run the Gold Dust say they're not going anywhere.

In fact, the Bovis brothers are planning to throw a party in honor of what will become at midnight a violation of their lease, and they say they won't leave until the sheriff kicks them out.

In an effort to save the Gold Dust, there have been T-shirts, a website, more than 5,000 Facebook friends -- and even a protest staged in the lobby of the Handlery Hotel, whose owner, Jon Handlery, is the Gold Dust's landlord.

"I mean I don't think there's anything I can say that the whole city hasn't already said to them," said Casey Lippi, a bartender who has worked behind the battered, curvy bar at the Gold Dust Lounge for 11 years.

About the only thing that has gotten Handlery's attention is the lawsuit the Bovis brothers have filed. They've run the Gold Dust since 1966.

"They're not going to be out of the Gold Dust until a court says they're out of the Gold Dust," said Joe Cotchett, the attorney for the Bovis family.

Cotchett says he thinks the brothers, who are now in their 80s, were tricked into signing a new lease with an early termination clause that let Handlery shut them down with just three months' notice.

"It's absolutely elder abuse because the laws of the state of California make it clear that you can't take financial advantage of senior citizens," Cotchett said.

Sam Singer, a Handlery spokesman, disagrees. "There is no elder abuse. What this is is an abuse of the legal process to try to drag out a lease."

Singer promises Handlery will start eviction proceedings, even though the pending lawsuit will keep them on hold for now.

In the meantime, things are getting ugly.

Handlerly's spokesman claims protesters graffitiied the bathroom in the Handlery Hotel, and the Bovis brothers claim they received a threatening phone call.

"There was a threat made to them that if they didn't go along and get out, they would have problems with another restaurant they have in the area, called Lefty O'Doul's," Cotchett said.

Handlery also owns the building where Lefty's is located. Singer denied the threat.

"There's no threat that I'm aware of about that property. That also has an early termination clause in it as well," Singer said.

If Handlery has his way, the tenant replacing the Gold Dust will be an Express clothing store. Most of it will actually be upstairs -- but as a son of one of the Bovis brothers put it -- they would essentially be replacing the decades-old bar with an escalator.


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