Bill West here. Co-owner of PlanB.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, Plan B is no longer open.
Our landlord (and owner of the property) has plans to demolish our building to build new condos and shops. We have been locked into a legal battle of sorts with him for quite some time now.
If any of you have felt that my smile was a little off lately, it's because I was carrying a huge and heavy secret. I've been advised not to say anything for fear of being sued.
Imagine that – getting sued for telling the truth.
But I'm going to share the truth with you anyway. You've been great and loyal customers and you deserve to know what happened to your funky little club.
We've been dealing with our landlord and his bizarre practices since day one. I tolerated it because I thought that is what you had to do in order to be in business.
Last Spring, he tore down the handicap ramp and did not replace it before renting the building to us. That is a federal ADA compliance violation that carries a $50,000.00 fine if convicted. We built one to meet the City of Durham's requirements and as it turns out – at our expense – to the tune of $6,500.00.
The back deck courtyard was rotten and full of holes. We asked our landlord to do something about it. He refused. So we fixed that too. And – we paid for that as well. Another $1,000.00 or so.
Then, November came, we had no heat, and he took weeks getting us heat. We finally refused to pay rent until the heat was fixed, which angered him and started a bit of a feud if you will.
Forgive me for asking for wild and luxuriant things like - heat - for our customers. The rest of the tenants in our complex suffer as well. Bathrooms that don't work, water leaks everywhere, no air conditioning in some spaces, - just unreal.
His excuse for never fixing anything was that he planned on demolishing everything and building new condos one day. He's been telling them this for years.
In January 2016, his plans were reviewed by the Durham City Council and so far, are under way. On Jan 15th, he became angry again, changed his mind, and informed us that he was terminating our lease. We hired an attorney, and became engulfed in hours of legal debates and strategies in order to figure out a way to salvage our growing business that we have obviously poured so much time, money, and energy into developing since last Summer.
We were informed that our landlord also has a proven track record of trying to seize possessions inside the building that belong to tenants. (i.e. - steal people's stuff.)
For weeks, we had been trying to reach resolve with him.
We were ignored by him and his lawyer knowing that a deadline for us to decide was approaching. Our landlord and his lawyer simply waited us out and stalled. We sent questions, options, and ideas for weeks. They were all 100% ignored. No negotations whatsoever. Only demands on their part.
Finally, and with very little time to process it, we were presented with a new lease just days before it was to be signed. And of course, the lease was insane. We did not want to sign knowing that we could be kicked out at any moment once his building permits were to go through (yet another item in the lease tilted in his favor).
And we certainly did not want our stuff to be stolen which was also one of his conditions - the right to our posessions.
It's frustrating and sad that we could not get help with stuff like this. We tried. We called the NC Attorney General's office, local Better Business Bureau, number after number, office after office, no help whatsoever. The whole entire time, I had to smile, carry on, and somehow figure out a way to keep my customers happy.
So yesterday morning, Jan 31st, I got up early to read the new sham of a lease again – line by line.
I said a little prayer and made the decision to leave. It is not at all the way we wanted to go. We were hoping to give everyone notice and have a last jam of some sort. But our landlord knows this and was waiting like a wolf in the wings for the chance to steal the contents of our building on Feb 1st.
It was a very difficult decision indeed.
I wanted to protect our investment and have a chance of carrying on in the future because we have been thinking of hosting shows off-site. Off the grid, and away from the man.
I'm exhausted folks. I started in August of 2012 and what I thought was going to be a fun small business adventure has turned into an ever evolving hell of challenges set forth by crooks, bureaucracies, and agencies trying to drown me in paperwork, red tape, permits, fees, fines, regulations, and of course down right illegal activity. I've watched NC ALE law enforcement agents bully and threaten my staff, town councils that did not share a mutual interest in developing musical enrichment in the area, and of course – landlords that did whatever they wanted – probably because they've never been challenged to do any better for themselves or their tenants.
I've also had my ear to the ground watching what other clubs and bars face and how they too are treated.
I've watched society change their habits of how they consume live entertainment vs. digital media. I've watched musicians face more and more challenges trying to earn a living.
I've watched the police take a much heavier hand to enforce drinking and driving laws which results in most folks fearing for their personal safety if they've had more than 2 drinks.
I've watched other small business owners struggle and suffer.
I've watched a lot, seen a lot, and I'm tired.
My heart has always been and will always be with the music and the musicians who create it. Our area is filled with so much talent. I've enjoyed some pretty magical nights of jams and musical fellowship from behind the soundboard and from behind the bar.
Hundreds of shows, thousands of beers, and millions of smiles!
What a wild ride!
Again, we are looking into possibly firing up the machine again later in the year to host some cool musical events. But I vow to never work with crooked and illegal landlords ever again.
In the meantime, I want to rest and re-charge.
I miss playing music and I look forward to getting back out there on stage.
I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for your support.
I consider most of you not just good customers but great friends.
A super huge thank you to my friend and business partner Brad Newell as well as the rest of my staff and anyone who has ever helped us along the way.
Please stay in touch with local music and music venue owners. Put down your phones and tablets and go dance to some live music on a more regular basis.
The phone will always be there. The club may not be...
We'll see you around somewhere real soon!