Blind Pig owner considering closing

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Blind Pig owes its landlord $37,318 representing five months' back rent, late fees and insurance, according to an audio recording of a Monday court hearing in which a Jefferson District Court judge issued an eviction order to the Butchertown restaurant.

But the principal owner of the building --- who used to manage a bar called Meat above the restaurant --- refused to accept rent checks for June through August in a bid to evict the restaurant, said the Blind Pig's  attorney, Steve Porter.

The acclaimed gastropub announced its upcoming closing on Tuesday via Facebook. But Porter now says Blind Pig owner Joe Frase is expecting an "offer" from the landlord, SP Holdings, that may resolve the situation and keep the restaurant in the building past Saturday.

"They have said they are going to make an offer to us; we haven't gotten an offer yet," Porter said Wednesday.

SP Holdings is led by Peyton Ray, according to court records. SP's attorney, James Proud, did not immediately return a call Wednesday.

Frase and Porter also argued in the Monday court hearing that the Blind Pig has tried to pay rent – without late fees, which it disputes – but that SP Holdings will not accept it.

Judge Ann Bailey Smith did not agree with them in at least one instance – the payment owed August 1. She said the restaurant may have tried to pay the rent that month but "not in a timely manner."

In the hearing, Proud said Blind Pig's offers to pay rent amounted to a "shell game" that did not comply with the lease.

"They offered a little bit here, a little bit there," he said.

Smith arrived at the $37,318 figure by totaling five months of rent -- $5,895 per month – plus late fees and insurance payments the restaurant owes. She said the court had no choice but to issue the eviction order, which the restaurant has until Monday to appeal.

Porter described "a pretty sensitive situation between the landlord and the tenant."

It started when Ray partnered with Frase to open Meat on the second floor of the building, 1076 E. Washington St., as an extension of the Blind Pig, Porter said. The bar's payroll and accounting went through the same limited liability company as the Blind Pig, When Pigs Fly LLC, he said.

Frase then closed Meat last spring after Kentucky Alcoholic Beverage Control officials raised questions about whether the bar was inappropriately using the Blind Pig's liquor license rather than obtaining its own, Porter said.

Last week, the Blind Pig paid a "small fine" to settle the ABC case and to keep its own liquor license in good standing, Porter said.

In a June 4 letter that is part of the court record, Porter said that during the final months of Meat's operation, Ray "failed to pay for various expenses but retained most of the gross sales proceeds associated with Meat," leaving the Blind Pig with $21,455.59 in liabilities.

The letter does not disclose Ray's role in Meat, and court records don't include documents detailing the relationship between Ray and Frase in regard to Meat.

Now vacant, the second floor premises remain part of Blind Pig's lease, according to court records.

SP Holdings, which is described in court records as an investor group including Ray, purchased the building on May 15 for $525,000, according to Jefferson County PVA records. Before the sale, its assessment for tax purposes had been $280,540, and it had last been sold in 2008 for $170,000.

Court records show that the two sides were at odds earlier in May when SP Holdings asked for $4,600 toward the landlord's liability insurance, a provision of the lease.

At one point, an SP Holdings representative said the Blind Pig has failed to give SP Holidngs a single cent since SP Holdings assumed ownership of the property.

Meanwhile, in a May 15 letter, a lawyer for the Blind Pig accused the landlord of having at least one off-duty police office conduct "around-the-clock police surveillance" of the restaurant from the street.

In response, Proud wrote: "I do not understand why your clients are disturbed by the presence of police officers in the public right of way." Proud said the police officers would move an additional 50 to 100 feet away from the property.

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