The battle at 23rd and Union between landlord and pot shop owner Ian Eisenberg and former tenant the Neighbor Lady bar turns out to be more than a war of words. Behind the scenes, CHS has learned Eisenberg is suing the bar owners for more than $300,000 over removed furniture and what the retail marijuana entrepreneur claims is a campaign of disparagement against him including the ultimate insult — urinal cakes bearing his likeness in use at Neighbor Lady’s sister bar, The Twilight Exit.
Lawyers for Stephan Mollman and Thomas Vivian have denied the allegation.
The lawsuit, filed in April and amended to include allegations including the urinal cake episode this summer, continues with the latest filing earlier this month moving the case forward. In it, lawyers for Eisenberg say they are seeking $200,000 over the removal of “light fixtures, neon signs, bar sinks, hooks, speakers, table tops, a bar, and a foot bar” from the bar adjacent the 23rd and Union Uncle Ike’s, as well as $50,000 each in damages from Mollman and Vivian over the disparagement allegations, as well as an additional $50,000 from the Neighbor Lady business, plus “indirect and consequential damages,” and legal costs.
“Despite agreeing to a non-disparagement clause pursuant to the Lease and First and Second Amendments, Mollman and Vivian, by and through Neighbor Lady LLC and Twilight Exit’s accounts, have published Facebook posts falsely stating that Mr. Eisenberg robbed them of their business and referring to Mr. Eisenberg in disparaging and vile terms with offensive and sexist language,” the complaint reads. “Further, Mollman and Vivian have permitted and encouraged former patrons of the Neighbor Lady to post libelous comments about Mr. Eisenberg and his businesses on Facebook, publicly liking and responding to comments on these posts.”
Eisenberg’s legal team says the posts and comments “falsely allege Mr. Eisenberg has engaged unsavory conduct such as making illegal campaign contributions, yelling and acting violently toward Neighbor Lady ownership and employees, and purchasing businesses in the Central District using fraudulent business tactics.”
Lawyers for the Neighbor Lady have responded, denying the allegations, and saying that the terms of the lease “are unconscionable, and were procured under duress,” any non-disparagement clauses in the leases were not in effect, and “truth is an absolute defense to non-disparagement claims.”
The legal dispute entangles two longtime Central District entrepreneurs with businesses on entirely different paths. The Twilight Exit founder Mollmann opened the Lady in 2012 taking over the space formerly home to Thompson’s Point of View, a neighborhood institution that served southern soul food and good times before it was hit by financial difficulties in the wake of the death of the legendary Carl Thompson, Jr. who died unexpectedly at age 51 in 2010.
The original Twilight Exit moved from E Madison to E Cherry in 2008. Today, a six-story apartment building stands at the original site across from the 22nd/Madison Safeway. A second Twilight Rainier was opened in 2018.
Eisenberg opened the original Uncle Ike’s, the city’s second ever legal pot shop, at 23rd and Union in 2014, and added the first Capitol Hill Uncle Ike’s on 15th Ave E in late 2016. This summer, he added his third area shop on E Olive Way. Ike’s now boasts five Seattle-area locations.
CHS reported on the dispute this summer as the Neighbor Lady lost its lease to start 2020 after eight years of business in the space. Neighbor Lady co-owner Mollmann told CHS the bar was “kicked out,” while landlord and Uncle Ike’s owner Eisenberg cited a new use for the space as the reason behind his decision to replace the bar.
It’s not clear what the plans are for the former Neighbor Lady location. Permit filings with the city show early work being planned for a project called “S Bar” that would involve an overhaul of the space’s interior. But in August, Eisenberg filed an application with the state liquor board for a permit to operate a “beer/wine specialty shop” retail business at the location. Eisenberg has not responded to our questions about the Ike’s Bottle Shop project.
The Neighbor Lady, meanwhile, has hopes of lining up a new space across the street in the Midtown Square development planned to open in 2021.
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