Lease Situation at The Must Turns Murky
The Must co-owners Rachel Thomas and Coly Den Haan stand outside Weeneez at 5th and Spring on Sunday.
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — What started as a story of burglary at popular Historic Core wine bar The Must evolved into a very public business dispute on Sunday, with the bar ownership stuck outside the space they had operated since December of 2008.
According to Julie Rico, who has owned the lease for the wine bar space and the Weeneez hot dog shop next door since at least 2006, Saturday's early morning changeout was simply a business move.
UPDATE (Wednesday): Our latest update of this story talks about how fans of The Must are going to have to wait for a resolution.
“It was not burglarized,” said Rico in an email to blogdowntown. "There is a new owner of the spaces. He is taking the space over to put in a beer and wine bar with food. He is an amazing person and will work much better in the space."
On Sunday afternoon, it was that new owner -- identity as yet unknown -- who was inside the 5th street space as owners and employees of The Must stood outside. Both parties held lease documents, though Rico denied that The Must held a valid lease interest.
"The Must had a contract with us," she wrote. "They were not sub-tenants."
A lawyer for the wine bar who was keeping up on the situation via phone calls with co-owner Rachel Thomas seemed resolved to the fact that the case would have to be resolved in a courtroom. “It’s a case of agreements, and will be looked into,” he said.
“Of course we were in our legal rights to do what we did,” Rico wrote later. “There is no warrant for my arrest, as this is a civil matter that will be settled in arbitration.”
According to Rachel Thomas, previous disagreements were due to be heard in two weeks during a previously scheduled arbitration hearing.
Furniture, wine inventory and kitchen equipment including new refrigerators was emptied from The Must early Saturday morning, prompting the ownership to call police and file a report. Rico explained that the work was done after 2:30am to minimize disruptions. "The area is extremely busy during the day. So we made the move at the most convenient time," she wrote.
A sign posted in the window on Sunday encouraged interested parties to apply for employment at the new venue, which Rico said is to be called J.P. Lounge. She said that Weeneez will remain open. "Weeneez, LLC no longer is the lease holder to both spaces," Rico explained. "J.P Lounge is now the lease holder. Weeneez can still exist because J.P. Lounge wants to keep Weeneez."