Boonville Lodge To Close

by Letters to the Editor, November 24, 2009

Friends of the Boonville Lodge and the Anderson Valley community at large:

It is with much disappointment, sadness and regret that Carroll Pratt and I, as owners of The Boonville Lodge, have been put into the position of having to inform the many people who have supported us over the past three years, along with the community that we had hoped to serve for many years to come, of the pending demise of The Boonville Lodge. This is as the direct result of what we believe to be the unreasonable and fraudulent actions of our landlord, Mr. Dave Johnson, who is asking for a rent increase of almost 100% at the commencement of our net lease option on February 1st, 2010. With this huge financial burden facing us, the likelihood of any future success at this location is virtually zero, despite the very solid progress as a going concern we have attained to this point. We are therefore being forced to close The Boonville Lodge on January 1, 2010.

This decision is made even more painful and upsetting because we employ 13 great people who have worked hard to make the bar a success and although, like everybody else, we have struggled with the economy, we felt very positively about our future success and the future of the only liquor bar/restaurant in town until the exorbitant rent demands were made on us. Now, because of Mr. Johnson’s failure to honor his agreements or his handshake, the future is dark at 14161 Highway 128, Boonville.

We originally pursued this endeavor with the idea that we would be keeping the liquor license here in the Valley, would be creating a place that the community as a whole could enjoy, and ultimately would provide a gathering place for the community. We have worked hard to reinvigorate The Lodge and at this point in time it exists as a source of pride for us personally and hopefully is seen as a place to go for a good meal and a drink for many people both from and beyond the Valley. If we had been able to stay on, perhaps a modest profit could have been made.

When we undertook the renovation of the Bar and Grill we met with Mr. Johnson to secure a long-term lease. The current lease had less than three years on it and, before deciding to invest countless hours and money into renovating the building and a business, we needed to be assured of his support. After shaking hands and coming to binding agreements that we had no reason to believe he wouldn’t honor, in good faith we began fulfilling our part of that agreement. On top of the agreed rent, we also began to pay him an additional $300 per month. By doing so we believed we could count on his support and he agreed to put this money back into the building as necessary. It would turn out to be the furthest thing from the truth, and as a consequence we are now being put into the position of losing everything that we have worked for.

We continued down our path to the goal we had set, investing thousands of dollars in time and money, all the while patiently waiting for his lawyer to draw up the lease and to begin the work needed on repairs to the main septic line as well as the serious and damaging leaks in the roof. More importantly, from a financial standpoint, we wanted him to remove his residential tenants off our power and propane grids. We continue to pay to pump the well to all of his residents, and all of the propane that fuels his residence next door occupied by a family of five.

We continued our appeal to him with numerous letters and still received no sign of relief. To this day we continue to be plagued by all of the small leaks and clogs that have become more damaging to our business operation as well as a monetary cost that have negatively impacted our bottom line while being unlawfully charged for his tenant’s utilities. He has not put any of the extra $300 per month paid to him into the building.

Over time it became all too apparent that he never intended to honor this part of the agreement. When we informed him that we would stop the additional payment he answered with a letter from an attorney threatening to have us evicted while denying he ever made such agreements. From that point on Mr. Johnson has made it all too clear by his actions that he wanted us out, and on many occasions to various people he has stated that he wanted us out and that he wouldn’t mind being a bar owner. His continuing adversarial behavior has made the situation virtually untenable, and that was before he came in with the totally unreasonable rent increase form $1500 to $3500!

He has told people that he wanted us out and then he spread rumors through his attorney that he could justify the extra money because he hadn’t increased the rent for a long time. however, the current lease payments, which still include the extra $300 per month, are virtually the same amount that the lease would be at this point if it had been raised to the Consumer Price Index for each of the years stipulated in the lease.

Now we must focus our energies on not only closing down a business we have worked so hard to build, but which also happens to be a Valley landmark with so many memories and stories to tell, but what we need to do, and what we can do, to move forward. Ultimately we hope in the end to do what best serves the community in which we live. We are open to listening to any and all other options, and ideas so feel free to contact us at 895-3823.

We painfully realize that this will affect all of us who live here in different ways, and for many different reasons. Some might be glad to see us go, some will care more than others, and some will just care less. But in the end we want to thank you all for the good times we’ve shared and the stories that you’ve told.

We hope to see you all sooner rather than later, and we will miss what we have shared.

Thanks for the support.

Thomas Towey and Carroll Pratt
The Boonville Lodge

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