Liam Flynn’s Ale House, a Station North pub and live music venue that opened in 2011, will close next week if it can't raise $30,000 to pay off debts to its landlord, owner Liam Flynn said.
An eviction notice from landlords Center City Inc. states Flynn has until July 20 to pay. Flynn launched an online GoFundMe fundraising campaign Monday morning to help save and relocate the restaurant, with the goal of raising $50,000 in a week. The money will pay the $30,000 debt owed to Center City Inc. and related lawyer fees, while also helping the owner find a new location in Baltimore, he said.
“Our ultimate goal is to find a new place, and that takes money,” Flynn said on the phone Monday. “We have to put stuff in storage. There’s build-out fees. I’m afraid that if we don’t find a place, the chances get slimmer and slimmer for us to reopen.”
If Flynn pays the debt to the landlords, he will be permitted to stay until the end of the year, said Carolyn McGuire-Frenkil, a partner in Center City Inc.
If the campaign’s goal is not reached, Flynn would be forced to sell kitchen equipment or file for bankruptcy, the latter of which would shut down the bar for good, he said. That would mean 15 employees would lose their jobs, he said.
The bar has regularly hosted free live music, ranging from folk and bluegrass to traditional Irish acts, five nights a week. It has also hosted art shows and theater performances. Flynn considers his bar to be a major contributor to the Station North arts scene.
He claims his lease agreement — which Flynn said he signed without legal counsel because he couldn’t afford it — set him up to fail because of a clause that states the tenant must pay 10 percent of its annual sales to the landlords once sales surpass $300,000.
Flynn believes the rate is excessive, and is the main reason he wants to relocate even if he raises the money needed to stay open.
“When you’re breaking even, where does that money come from?” Flynn said.
McGuire-Frenkil said her group renegotiated the lease twice with Flynn, but would not change the percentage rent clause.
“The lease is the lease,” McGuire-Frenkil said on the phone Monday. “How many times do you keep revising a lease? I don’t understand.”
She rejected the notion the Ale House was set up for failure, saying Center City Inc. provided “several months” of free and reduced rent to Liam Flynn’s early on. She also said Flynn has had a pattern of late payments for rent and utility bills.
Flynn confirmed both claims, and said he fell behind in trying to pay down his debts to the landlords.
Despite the eviction notice, McGuire-Frenkil said she hopes Flynn stays, even if it's no longer his plan. She added she is “personally hurt” that Flynn is discussing the dispute in the media.
“It’s sad. We want him to be there,” she said. “I’d like to think we’re not viewed as the evil landlords.”
If the GoFundMe campaign is successful, Flynn said he wants to keep the bar in Station North but is considering other options like Mount Vernon.
In the meantime, Flynn manages O Flynn’s Crab & Cask House, which opened in early May in South Baltimore's Brooklyn neighborhood.
Flynn holds out hope he can pay off his debt to Center City Inc. and find a new location in the process. Nine hours after the GoFundMe campaign launched Monday, 71 people had donated a total of over $4,200.