Downtown's bar and restaurant scene may be booming thanks to the growth in and around the 300 block of Main, but one area building will soon lose the neighborhood's only brewpub. The League of Extraordinary Brewers and its Brewery Incubator backend will close after service Saturday night.
According to a statement provided to CultureMap by owner Lucrece Borrego, "the Incubator is being evicted from its home of five years downtown over a game of naked Twister."
Borrego provided CultureMap with a copy of the eviction notice presented to her on Aug. 15. It details "Performance Defaults" including "the storing of personal items and trash in the common areas and hallways." The letter references "empty beer kegs, boxes, ladders and shelving, among other items" found during a recent inspection. Additionally, the letter reports a history of late rent payments and, of course, the game of Twister.
Borrego concedes that some rent payments were late but blames a problem with the landlord's electronic payment system. She says the kegs were left in the hallway during deliveries.
Then there's the game of Twister, which the eviction letter describes as "tenants of the adjacent lease space report that recently several naked males were seen in the common area hallway, common area bathroom, and . . . within the Lease Premises." In a lengthy blog post, Borrego defends the game, writing:
Indeed, I had agreed to host a naked game night: a completely private event that takes place at bars all over Houston regularly. We covered all the windows and had someone working the door. Only one thing went wrong: an employee of the architectural services firm next door that has access to our hallways was working long after business hours and stumbled up a game of strip Twister in the hall. Whoever this person was, he or she had clearly never seen the naked male body before and took great offense to the incident, crying 'public nudity' to the landlord."
Borrego tells CultureMap she has consulted with an attorney about fighting the eviction, but says that "my lawyer said that basically they want me out and they will keep finding excuses to get me out no matter what I do."
Borrego writes that the building's new owner is using the lease violations as a pretext to remove her business and replace it with a tenant who will pay a higher rate. She opened the then Kitchen Incubator in 2010 before the latest wave of revitalization swept the area around Market Square, which helped launch a number of successful businesses including Boomtown Coffee, Kickin' Kombucha and Cacao and Cardamom. Borrego explains some of the struggles she's encountered while waiting for development to catch up.
I fought crackheads off my steps, got mugged, got my car broken into and faced constant harassment. But I believed in downtown. So I fought to stay open and I made it work against all odds. The concept had to shift and grow but I got creative and I found ways to make it happen. I understand that my rent would look cheap for the neighborhood with what it is now, but this space was nothing like this when I found it. I restored everything in the space by hand."
Since she lacks the financial resources to fight, Borrego is planning to have one last blow out bash Saturday (Aug. 23). For $35, diners will receive a special tasting glass, beer and snacks. Borrego says all money raised will go towards helping her pay legal fees she's incurred in negotiations with her landlord. All material from the brewpub must be removed by Tuesday.
Charles Turet, an attorney representing the landlord, cited privacy concerns and declined to discuss specifics, but he referred to the letter as giving the complete reasons for the eviction. He also notes that the landlord provided Borrego with similar letters in June and July.
"She controls her own destiny, and she made her own choices," Turet tells CultureMap.
As for Borrego, she's not certain what the future holds. She's negotiated enough time to remove most of the brewing system that was paid for by a Kickstarter campaign, but finding a new home will be difficult.
"I don't have any money so I'd need to find a partner," she says. "Five days to move out an entire businesses isn't enough time, so my focus the last few days has been moving. I'm trying to salvage what I can, but everything is very permanently installed. And heavy!"