After opening in June, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill at The Collection at Riverpark in Oxnard is under the gun for more than $605,000 in unpaid rent.
On Nov. 10, The Collection’s developer, Shea Properties, filed suit against CRGE Oxnard, an entity operated by Scottsdale, Arizona-based Boomtown Entertainment, which owns the franchise.
According to Ventura County Superior Court documents, the restaurant owners haven’t paid rent since Oct. 17. Boomtown started leasing the property from Shea on Dec. 27, 2012. Shea gave Boomtown written notice in October to either pay up or turn over the property.
As of Nov. 1, Shea is charging Boomtown a daily rent of almost $1,800. According to Business Times calculations, Boomtown could be forced to pay well over an additional $40,000, not including interest, if the company can’t settle with Shea.
It’s unclear why Boomtown wasn’t paying. A Nov. 25 email from a company representative stated that Boomtown was in the process of settling the matter. James Williams, vice president of marketing and communications for Shea Properties, said the company is still trying to work out a solution with Boomtown but wouldn’t comment further, noting that the suit is pending.
Court documents show Shea is seeking termination and forfeiture of the leases and immediate restitution of the property, all past due rent and damages, as well as attorney’s fees.
Boomtown licensed the Toby Keith name after the country singer released the hit song “I Love This Bar” in 2003. The tune hit No. 1 on Billboard’s U.S. Hot Country singles chart and reached No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 that same year.
The restaurant features a guitar-shaped bar and a venue for live performances. Part of its shtick is serving beer in mason jars alongside artery-clogging comfort food such as fried bologna sandwiches, meatloaf and Southern-fried Twinkies.
The restaurant operators opened the first location in Keith’s hometown of Oklahoma City in 2005 and now have 16 locations across the country, with others in the works, including a location in Anaheim.
However, this isn’t the first time Boomtown has been at odds with its landlords. In October, the company shuttered its location in Mesa, Arizona, and reopened the restaurant in Phoenix following a dispute with the previous location’s developers, according to media reports.
In an email to the East Valley Tribune, Boomtown Entertainment President Frank Capri said a conflict with leasing company Mesa Riverview resulted in the decision.
“The issues with Riverview started when we became successful,” Capri said in the email. “As we started to develop our brand and evolve the Toby Keith concept, the Riverview management became difficult and ultimately inhibited us from reaching maximal growth potential.”
Tucson Mall sued the company for skipping out early on a nearly $1 million a year lease agreement, according to a March 30 report from the Arizona Daily Star.
In that case, Boomtown guaranteed it would pay $77,053 a month for five years to lease the Tucson mall space. But after being open 14 months, the location unexpectedly closed on March 7.
Boomtown signed that lease around the same time it signed its lease in Oxnard. For perspective, the company’s lease in Tucson was supposed to run 15 years. From year six to 10, Boomtown’s monthly rate would have increased to $86,299, according to the lease provided in court documents for that case. In the final five years, rent would have gone up another $10,000 a month to $96,655, the document states.
The recent suit marks the third time Boomtown has been sued for trying to dodge a lease. In 2012, a Cincinnati developer filed suit when Boomtown fell several months behind on its $40,000-plus monthly rent. Boomtown threatened to countersue, claiming the developer brought in a business that was too similar to Toby Keith’s, according to media reports. That suit was settled.
However, the Arizona Daily Star reported Sysco Arizona was also suing Boomtown after the company failed to pay $32,400 for food and restaurant supplies that Sysco sold the Tucson Mall restaurant, according to court documents filed last September.
This April, it was also discovered that Boomtown’s Toby Keith restaurant in Syracuse, New York, at the Destiny USA shopping center owes about $189,000 in sales taxes.
Boomtown remains entrenched in a trademark infringement battle in a Phoenix court with former chief financial officer Philip Lama, after Lama allegedly took trade secrets from Boomtown to launch a restaurant concept with another country band, Rascal Flatts.
• Contact Elijah Brumback at [email protected]