Trigger bar closes
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Trigger nightclub in the Castro shut down Tuesday, after a judge last week ordered assets associated with the business to be auctioned off.
Owner Greg Bronstein was recently ordered to pay more than $100,000 to Marvin Banks. Banks had loaned Bronstein $100,000 in 2009, but Bronstein didn't pay back all the money he owed, according to San Francisco Superior Court records.
[Update: Trigger was open again Thursday, June 21, and it appears that it will be open at least through the weekend. Club owner Greg Bronstein and Mark Epstein, the court-appointed receiver charged with auctioning off Trigger's assets, didn’t immediately respond to interview requests Friday morning.]
In March, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn ordered Bronstein to pay Banks back. What Bronstein owes appears to include costs such as interest and attorneys fees.
On June 11, Kahn appointed attorney Mark Epstein as the post-judgment receiver for Bronstein's Trigger assets, according to a court filing. Bronstein didn't respond to interview requests. Trigger is located at 2344 Market Street, near the heart of the Castro neighborhood.
Epstein is to hold a public auction in coordination with San Francisco's sheriff, the records say.
"Defendants shall not interfere with the receiver or the execution of his duties in any way," and is ordered not to transfer, damage, sell, modify, or take several other actions to any of the assets listed in the court filing. Those include all fixtures, equipment, machinery, and all other "tangible and intangible assets" of the club.
Banks didn't respond to an interview request, but Epstein said, "It looks like they may have liens ahead of them before Mr. Banks gets to them." He added that because of the liens, Banks "may not be entitled to anything."
He said the primary lien is from the state Board of Equalization. California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control records show that the BOE has had a hold on the liquor license currently used for Trigger since April 2008. A BOE staffer declined to comment specifically on Bronstein's case, citing confidentiality rules.
Epstein said the receivership is because of Banks's lawsuit, but whether "there's anything to administer after the other liens is another question." He didn't know when or where the auction would be.
"With what's left in the bar, it could cost us more to inventory and sell [the assets] than it's worth," Epstein said. He said he had "absolutely no idea" how much the auction might bring in. He indicated there could be leases or liens already on the lighting and sound systems.
The liquor license has been involved in a transfer process to the owners of Patxi's Chicago Pizza on Fillmore Street. That transfer would be affected, Epstein said.
"If the person who is selling the liquor license is Greg Bronstein or the corporation that owns the liquor license, then the receivership would prohibit him from selling the license," Epstein said. He said he had "no idea" what would happen with the Trigger space.
Banks filed a breach of contract complaint December 21, 2010 against Bronstein and his company That's It Inc., according to court records. His attorney is listed as Joseph C. Barton.
In the documents, Banks says he loaned Bronstein $100,000 in April 2009. The court filings include the security agreement giving Banks a "security interest in the personal property and fixtures" of Trigger.
In an interview earlier this month, Barton said he didn't know what kind of relationship Bronstein and Banks had.
At one point in the court process, Barton said, they had reached a settlement, and Bronstein "made several payments." Then, however, "He stopped paying, and neither he nor his attorneys communicated with Mr. Banks, so we went to court to get the judgment."
In a brief interview Wednesday morning, June 20, Barton said, "We're trying to find the source of some money. We haven't been too successful so far coming up with any serious assets," which is one of the reasons the receiver was appointed.
Bill Freeman, one of the owners of Patxi's, said of the Trigger license earlier this month, "I don't know who I'm buying it from. We have a broker that deals with all this stuff for us." He said he put $100,000 into an escrow fund for the license. The license owner would split the proceeds with "whoever has a security interest in the license," which could be creditors or others, Freeman said.
Freeman didn't respond to an interview request Wednesday morning.
In response to emailed questions, ABC spokesman John Carr wrote Tuesday, June 19 that the Trigger license transfer was still pending.
Meanwhile, Lime, a Castro bar and eatery owned by Bronstein, also recently closed. As first reported on the Grub Street San Francisco blog, the space that housed Lime will become the sports-themed bar Hi Tops.
The Patxi's transfer application and this week's Trigger closing also were first reported by Grubb Street San Francisco.
Lauren Grause, who represented Bronstein in the Banks court case as an attorney with Anderson and Poole, P.C., declined to comment for this story, citing attorney-client privilege. She said she no longer represents Bronstein and is no longer with Anderson and Poole.
An interview request left in the voicemail apparently belonging to Anderson and Poole partner Ellis Ross Anderson wasn't returned.