Closing time on Saturday night at the Gold Dust Lounge marked the end of the embattled bar’s lease, but the owners want to make one thing clear — it’s not yet last call for the kitschy Union Square dive.
Despite the legally binding agreement, the octogenarian Bovis brothers who own the business simply won’t budge, according to their attorney, Justin Berger. The bar and its gregarious supporters have been locked in battle for months with the building owners, who want to replace the notable saloon with an entryway for a clothing store.
“It’s not just about saving the Gold Dust, it’s about making sure small business and elderly San Franciscans are treated with dignity and respect,” said Berger, who argues in a lawsuit against the building owners that the Gold Dust purveyors were deceived in lease negotiations, constituting fraud and elder abuse.
But it’s actually the bar owners who are being disrespectful, contends Sam Singer, a spokesman for the building’s landlords.
“It’s a sad statement about the Bovis family that they don’t honor their word, and they don’t keep their leases,” Singer said, adding that violation of the agreement will no doubt come with a “great deal” of financial penalties. “The Bovises are going to lose. That’s how this works.”
The inaction over the lease termination will result in further “swift action,” according to Singer. But Berger said the pending lawsuit and an attempt by Supervisor Christina Olague to give the bar stronger historic landmark status could likely prevent the Sheriff’s Department from carrying out an eviction.
“I can’t imagine the sheriff doing that, given the serious nature of the allegations in our complaint,” he said.
The high-profile back-and-forth between the two sides — orchestrated by two of The City’s most renowned public relations practitioners — has turned ugly at times, and is showing no signs of getting any nicer. Singer issued a news release Friday blaming bar backers for vandalism, including profane graffiti in the bathroom of the nearby Handlery Hotel, which also is owned by the Gold Dust landlords.
Missives such as “F--- you the Police” and “Occupy Gold Dust” were scrawled on the wall March 6, according to Singer, who called the messages “representative of the misleading campaign tactics” that supporters have encouraged.
Lee Housekeeper, a spokesman for the bar owners, said Singer has no proof the graffiti was done by Gold Dust supporters.
“Don’t go down the Sam Singer rabbit hole,” Housekeeper said. “He has no evidence.”
When the battle over Union Square’s Gold Dust Lounge appeared imminent, both sides of the classic San Francisco fight called in the big guns of local PR.
Wrangling between stalwarts Sam Singer and Lee Housekeeper has made for lively stunts and daily accusations of lowbrow tactics. The bar has consistently offered $1 gulps of “vitamin V” — otherwise known as vodka — and 25-cent drinks for reporters to lure coverage.
Singer, representing the building’s landlords, who want the bar ousted to make way for a clothing store, said he likes Housekeeper well enough outside of the conflict, but questioned his methods.
“I never hold grudges,” Singer said. “It’s too small a town and too short a life. I love Lee, but if there was such a thing as public relations malpractice, he’d be spending life in prison.”
Housekeeper said Singer’s claims of vandalism and threats targeted at his clients over the bar spat are preposterous.
“All of this is out of the Sam Singer playbook of stuff that just ain’t true,” Housekeeper said. “He’s done this in the past and he’s doing it again.”
— Dan Schreiber