In their latest filing in a lawsuit against the landlord of the property where Lisa Vanderpump recently opened P.U.M.P. Lounge, the plaintiffs are asking that the lease to the property be given to them so that they can open the gay sports bar they had planned there.
The suit originally was filed last August by Andrew Gruver and Ryan Carrillo, former employees of The Abbey and SBE Entertainment Group. Gruver and Carrillo allege that Elie Samaha had promised them he would invest $500,000 in a gay sports bar they hoped to open at 8948 Santa Monica Blvd., where P.U.M.P. opened in May. The suit says that Samaha holds the master lease on the property, formerly the home of the Java Detour coffee bar.
Gruver and Carrillo allege that Samaha not only didn’t deliver on his promise of an investment, but that after signing an agreement to lease the property to them for $4,000 a month he turned around and leased it to Vanderpump and her husband, Ken Todd. Gruver and Carrillo also are suing Vanderpump and Todd, alleging that they “intended to disrupt the performance of the (existing) agreement” with Samaha.
Gruver and Carrillo say they invested money and time in the Bar Varsity project, including embarking on a lengthy and successful effort to get the West Hollywood Planning Commission to approve expanding the Java Detour building from 1,917 square feet to 3,575 square feet and to add a 1,604 square foot patio and to get the City of West Hollywood to let them meet requirements for parking spaces using offsite parking.
In their June 19 filing with Los Angeles County Superior Court, which includes 452 pages, Gruver and Carrillo also list as defendants more than a dozen enterprises in which they say Samaha has an ownership stake, including Chinese Theatre Holdings LLC, owner of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and 623 La Peer LLC, owner of a parking lot at that address on La Peer Drive where Samaha in 2009 received approval from the West Hollywood Planning Commission to build a 63,000-square-foot hotel. To date no work has been done on the hotel project.
When it comes to whether he owns those properties, Samaha has contradicted himself, saying in a television interview that he owns Grauman’s and a number of other prominent properties and testifying in another lawsuit that he doesn’t own those properties. That suit was brought by a law firm seeking $421,000 in unpaid legal fees. Gruver and Carrillo allege that Samaha placed those and other properties in his sister’s name to avoiding losing them in various legal battles.
In response to their suit, Samaha has alleged that Gruver and Carrillo didn’t follow through on their commitment to attract investments in the Bar Varsity project from what they described as the “gay power elite.
Gruver and Carrillo are seeking a jury trial for their lawsuit. It is unclear whether a judge would rescind the P.U.M.P. lease, thus forcing it to close, if they are successful.
Meanwhile, Vanderpump and Todd are facing other legal troubles. L.A. Commercial Group Inc. is suing Blanca Investments LLC, the legal entity under which Vanderpump and Todd own the Villa Blanca restaurant in Beverly Hills. L.A. Commercial alleges that Villa Blanca has failed to pay $31,409 that it owed to Shamrock Foods Company for food supplied to the restaurant ranging from anchovies to chicken breasts to Dijon mustard to bacon. Also, in January a waitress at Villa Blanca was awarded damages of $100,000 in a suit she filed alleging sexual harassment by one of its managers.
When it opened, Vanderpump and Todd promoted P.U.M.P. as an upscale gay lounge and restaurant. To promote P.U.M.P., Vanderpump and Todd have partnered with Frontiers magazine, holding a Gay Pride event there for Frontiers, which subsequently has published flattering stories on P.U.M.P. However Frontiers’s owner has been shifting the content of that magazine, once oriented to a gay audience, to appeal also to heterosexual readers. And those familiar with the bar and restaurant scene on the Westside area of West Hollywood known as Boystown report that the clientele is decidedly more mixed than gay. Another indicator of P.U.M.P.s difficulty in attracting a gay audience is the fact that a more than a third of those commenting on P.U.M.P. on Yelp have been women as opposed to gay men.