If you’re planning your same-sex nuptials, you might wait until the opening of P.U.M.P., the lounge being developed by Lisa Vanderpump and her husband Ken Todd at the southeast corner of Robertson and Santa Monica boulevards. But then again, be prepared for a long engagement as a lawsuit involving the property gets more complicated.
Vanderpump, who became an ordained minister last summer, declared on Monday night’s episode of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” that she intends to perform weddings at the gay lounge.
One thing that may stand in the way is a lawsuit, which seeks $4 million in damages, that was filed last summer by Ryan Carrillo and Andrew Gruver, former general manager and promotions manager at the Abbey. They alleged that businessmen Freddy Braidy, Edward Frumkes and Elie Samaha had agreed in 2009 to help them develop the property, the site of the former Java Detour coffee bar, into a gay sports bar, and that Samaha had offered to invest in the project. They allege that later Vanderpump entered a leasing agreement with Samaha and his partners and “intended to disrupt the performance of the (existing) agreement” for the property. Vanderpump has denied that allegation.
While Gruver and Carrillo’s accusations of breach of contract and deceit and misrepresentation got publicity, a countersuit filed by Samaha and Brady gives another side of the story and complicates matters.
In a filing in Los Angeles Superior Court, Samaha and Brady say the former Abbey employees told them that they had already lined up investors from the Hollywood “power gay elite” for the project, which they were going to call Bar Varsity. The only member of the ” power gay elite” cited is Roland Emmerich, the German director who lives in Los Angeles, with whom Gruver claimed to have a relationship. They said they needed Samaha and Brady’s help finding more money and negotiating the complex design and permit process required for opening a bar or lounge. Samaha and Brady said they agreed to take on the project, so long as Gruver and Carrillo used their connections with the “power gay elite” to match the $600,000 their Professional Restaurant Group (PRG) would need to raise for the project. They would share ownership with Gruver and Carrillo’s Lulu Restaurant Group.
The countersuit says Samaha and Brady paid the rent on the empty Java Detour property, did the work required to get a city permit and raised $500,000 for the project. Then, they allege Gruver and Carrillo welshed on their commitment and disappeared.
“Far from making good on their promise of imminent investments by the ‘gay power elite’ of Hollywood, Gruver and Carrillo had produced no investors or income whatsoever…” the countersuit says.
Worse, according to the countersuit, Gruver and Carrillo did solicit investments of $30,000 from each of two friends, Daniel de Anda Fast, a bartender at Las Vegas’ Pure Nightclub, and Jeremy Schonwald, a set lighting technician. Then, the suit says, Gruver and Carrillo disappeared, not responding to Fast, Schonwald or PRG.
Gruver resurfaced with an announcement that he was going to open a restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Mahgreb on Sunset Boulevard at Stanley Avenue in Hollywood. That didn’t pan out, and the space now is occupied by Acabar. Carrillo spent 2011 performing in “Expedition Impossible,” a reality TV show, with his former boyfriend A.J. Gibson.
Samaha and Brady said they have reimbursed Fast and Schonwald for their investments and that they continued to pay rent on the Java Detour property until it was sold in 2012 by the trust that owned it and then leased to Vanderpump. Construction of P.U.M.P. is now underway.
“Apparently smelling money when they learned that the property had finally been leased (with the allure of celebrity no less), and even though they had breached their obligations… and simply disappeared into the night, all of a sudden Lulu, Carrillo and Gruver surfaced,” the complaint says.
“…With a celebrity like Ms. Vanderpump in their sights, Lulu, Carrillo and Gruver filed this action, alleging various cause of action based on … ludicruous fabrications against PRG and its members, and against Mr. Todd and Ms. Vanderpump, all designed clearly to extort a large settlement,” the countersuit alleges. “That will not happen.
A hearing, pending mediation, is set for May 28 on Gruver and Carrillo’s petition to dismiss the countercharges.