Hip Chinatown bar Fortune faces the risk of eviction, Willamette Week first reported. Co-owner Kurt Huffman, the head honcho behind Chefstable, filed a lawsuit against the building owners on September 6, alleging that the current owners are attempting to bully him out so they can liquidate the building.
Huffman has been working on redeveloping the building since he and Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker opened Ping in that space in 2009. Since Ping’s closure, Fortune opened in its place, with plans to expand into the neighboring spaces. Huffman has been working directly with the longtime owner Joanne Hong to redevelop the building as well as the bar, but Hong passed away in 2017. According to Fortune co-owner Eric Bowler, the team was slapped with an eviction notice the day after the bar reopened post-renovations.
Huffman’s legal counsel, Taylor Duty, filed a complaint saying Hong asked Huffman and the team renting the building to draft an option that would transfer the building into Huffman’s hands, purchased at “fair market value.” When Hong died, Huffman claims her children began entering the building without notice, demanding renovation changes, and attempted to build a case of noncompliance with the city’s building code (they were unsuccessful). The complaint also alleges that the heirs — who are not the current landlords — regularly called in fake complaints to the fire marshall and attempted to dramatically increase the rent to almost double the previous rate.
Duty claims these “relentless, baseless complaints” are a ploy by the heirs to invalidate the agreement to pass the building on to Huffman, which would make the option contract to buy the building invalid so the family could liquidate the building. Willamette Week’s Jayce Wagner describes a particularly strange incident below:
The lawsuit alleges the Hong heirs have entered the property without consent on at least 10 separate occasions, including one bizarre instance where Huffman claims Debera Hong was discovered sitting alone in the dark in the property’s basement.
The lawsuit describes a fraught relationship between Huffman and the Hong heirs, with the heirs demanding alterations, including the restoration of the separating wall, but refusing to grant written consent for Huffman to actually perform the renovations.
“We tried to play nice,” Bowler says. “They seem hell-bent on evicting us and selling the building, with 10 years on our lease.”