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After Active Weekend, Must Fans Must Wait

By Ed Fuentes with Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, July 06, 2010, at 11:42PM
IMG_0557 Ed Fuentes

A look inside the empty space that until this weekend held The Must wine bar.

Unlike the coup d'état by J.P. Lounge that took place in the early morning hours on Saturday, resolution for the murky situation faced by Historic Core wine bar The Must won't be resolved overnight.

The bar's management team filed an application for a temporary restraining order through the American Arbitration Association on Tuesday morning. "There is a civil matter pending,” co-owner Rachel Thomas said early in the afternoon. “Other than that, we are in a waiting game.”

Leasing for the retail space in the Security Lofts is handled by the Simpson Property Group's corporate headquarters in Denver, so local management was left waiting for staff to return from the holiday weekend. A source with the company who asked not to be named said Tuesday that the leases are being reviewed, and that an internal announcement will be made “once everything is ironed out.”

While Saturday's change out was sudden, it had been brewing for months. Julie Rico and Sid Carter, partners in master lease holder Weeneez, LLC., had been shopping the combined spaces since at least December.

In comments here on blogdowntown, Rico has maintained that notice to vacate was given to The Must on July 1, just two days before the space was emptied after the bar closed on Friday night.

Representatives for The Must say they didn't get the notice. “It was not delivered to anyone on July 1,” said Thomas Moore, the attorney representing owners of The Must. “The first notice that anyone received was on the morning of July 3, when Rachel Thomas discovered that all of The Must's property had been removed.”

“All of this -- the movers, the locksmith, the new tenant, the negotiations with the landlord, the notices, etc. -- takes days or even weeks to arrange," Moore added. “The idea was to strike over the long weekend.”

Despite the move-out, Weeneez, LLC does appear to have deposited the bar's July rent check. Documents provided to blogdowntown show cancelled checks for May, June and July, all with the word "Rent" scribbled out in the comment line.

While public sentiment has been clearly on the side of The Must, the strength of the bar's legal position remains to be seen. Ownership told blogdowntown that they were aware of Weeneez' sale efforts, though they were unaware of the sale that took place.

Weeneez, LLC is also owner of the bar's liquor license, which was first issued to "Red Dot Bistro," the limited-hours eatery she opened in late 2006. The space was then leased to Lime Cafe, which lasted only a few months. It was then back on the lease market before The Must signed on in 2008.

A fundraiser for bar employees affected by the sudden closure will be held on Saturday, July 10, at the Farmers & Merchants Bank (4th and Spring). Entry to the event, which will run from 7 to 11pm, is $20. All proceeds go to the employees' lost wages.

On the sidewalks outside The Must, the bar's fans have in recent days talked of a picket line during this Thursday's Downtown Art Walk. That may not be the best idea, said Captain Todd Chamberlain, head of LAPD's Central Division. "There can be a picket line, but people have to keep moving and not impede pedestrians," Chamberlain said. "With the sidewalks busier during Art Walk night, it may not be a good time."

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