Simone on Sunset, the intimate bar near Rice Village that's known as a great spot for dates, closed quietly after service on Dec. 9. However, unlike some other recent closures, owner Kristen Powell says Simone was doing well financially.
"This month has been four years for us," Powell tells CultureMap. "We were doing phenomenally."
"For months, my landlord has been asking me to hand over my bar to him. We just don’t get along at all," Powell says.
However, Simone says she has been locked out by landlord Fred Sharifi for alleged non-payment of rent. "It’s been quite a little cluster you know what," Powell admits.
Powell says the problems began when she moved to remove her business partners from Simone. "We had disagreements with how things were run. I'm a big believer in growth and not giving things away for free," Powell says. "Things kind of hit the fan in April. I made many offers to buy them out and pay them for their original investment. That was just not what they were into. They wanted the name and the access to free stuff and all the fun stuff without the responsibility."
Powell says she moved to put the bar's TABC license solely in her name instead of her former partners'. When she did so, she alleges that Sharifi used the dispute as a pretext for cancelling her lease.
"For months, my landlord has been asking me to hand over my bar to him. We just don’t get along at all," Powell says. "When he and I fight, it’s like World War III." She claims that Sharifi told her he's going to bring in a new operator for the space.
Sharifi vigorously denies Powell's allegations. "The only reason we locked her out was non-payment of rent," he tells CultureMap. When he saw the e-blast that Powell was closing Simone for the rest of the year but still hadn't paid her December rent, he decided to act. "I had no other option legally but to lock her out," he says.
Sharifi vigorously denies Powell's allegations. "The only reason we locked her out was non-payment of rent," he tells CultureMap.
The landlord declined to comment about the nature of his conversations with Powell or any dispute involving her partners. "At the end of the day, she has not paid her rent, and we have locked her out," Sharifi states.
Despite alleging that Sharifi violated the lease's default provisions by not waiting until the rent was 15 days late to lock her out, Powell says she hasn't made a decision about pursuing legal action to retake control of Simone. She admits that she has paid her rent late but said she says always paid the full rent and late fee.
Regardless of what happens with the space, she's convinced her future lies elsewhere and has started to look for a new location. "I've got some feelers out. I'm not going to talk about it until I get a lease in hand," she says. "I doubt I’ll be outside the loop. That’s like stamping a passport. That is just a whole different territory out there."
Although her involvement with Simone appears to have ended, Powell says she's proud of what she accomplished. "I opened at 27 years old. I knew nothing about the industry. It was a beautiful learning experience."
For patrons who are missing their favorite watering hole, Powell hopes to open her new place soon. "I am very sad that the bar has closed . . . . Hopefully I’ll get something open and built quickly to provide another beautiful bar for Houston."