ST. PETERSBURG — The Hofbräuhaus restaurant is behind on its rent and facing a threat of eviction from its downtown home, according to a lawsuit filed by its new landlord.
The lawsuit claims that the German beer hall’s owners also are on the hook for millions of dollars for breaking its 15-year lease after they started falling behind on rent in August. The suit was filed by property owner WG St. Pete LLC.
Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg’s business owners, Bavarian Partners, hadn’t been paying rent to WG long. A capital investment firm sold the property, which was once the Tampa Bay Times’ cafeteria, in January, turning a $2 million profit in just a day. On Jan. 28, the Bavarian Partners signed a lease agreement with WG St. Pete for the property at 123 4th St. S. Daniel J. Woods signed the lease as the landlord and is also the company’s agent on state records.
But come Aug. 1, the restaurant missed its rent, according to the lawsuit. WG St. Pete hired attorneys in September who followed up demanding the missing rent and some late fees that came to nearly $42,500. The lawsuit says the restaurant ignored that, too.
"Tenant has refused or otherwise failed to pay the rentals due and still refuses or otherwise fails to do so,” the lawsuit says. “Tenant also refuses … to surrender the leased property.”
On Sept. 26, WG St. Pete’s attorneys sent the restaurant a “notice of acceleration” giving its owners five days to come up with $7.1 million, the total they would have paid in rent through the end of the lease agreement.
After that, WG St. Pete filed the lawsuit seeking its money and an eviction.
Hofbräuhaus was conceived by a father and son from Chicago. The duo owns the Chicago location of the American chain modeled after the iconic beer hall in Munich. They bought the St. Pete building from the Times in 2014 for $2.7 million and then put in another $3 million in renovations.
Two years after opening the St. Pete restaurant, the father and son sold the business in an undisclosed deal to the Bavarian Partners, a company led by the former president of Checkers Drive-In and CEO of Big Boy restaurants, Keith Sirois.
But property appraiser records show that the Chicago owners didn’t sell the actual property until the start of this year.
It was sold to Terra Capital I, an authorized member of Bavarian Partners, for $4.8 million on Jan. 24. On Jan. 25, Terra sold it to WG St. Pete for $6.8 million.
Big Boy Franchise Management, a Michigan company, signed on to guarantee the lease agreement. The new CEO of Big Boy, David Crawford, also replaced Sirois as a member of Bavarian Partners. Big Boy is named as co-defendant in the lawsuit.
Crawford responded to a reporter’s text message on Tuesday, but did not make a comment.
Meanwhile, the restaurant has continued to hold its annual Oktoberfest events, including its “ceremonial keg tapping” on Sept. 21.