Brooklyn bar owner sues to convert business into gay, lesbian watering hole.Online Only, Top Highlights, Around the Nation Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
When John McGillion first purchased Lulu’s in the Greenpoint neighborhood of northern Brooklyn, he had no idea that less than 10 years later it would become an up-and-coming neighborhood with an increasingly diverse gay and lesbian population. After all, Greenpoint’s history points to a large farming community mostly owned and tilled by first- and second-generation Poles.
But as times changed, farms were sold off and now Greenpoint, like so many other urban mixed-used communities in Brooklyn, is turning into a trendy center of multiculturalism and McGillion wants nothing more than to exploit those changes so Lulu’s, barely getting by, can begin to cater to a gay and lesbian clientele. “The LGBT community does well because you don’t have issues of fighting,” he said. “They’re nice people, they’re wonderful to deal with. It’s easier. Typically you don’t have to offer food.”
Except there’s one thing standing in his way: his landlord. (Janet Berger of Manhasset, New York has been identified through public records as the landlord and refused any and all comments for this story.) In her original contract, and according to court papers, the lease for Lulu’s contains a clause prohibiting the premises from being used for “adult entertainment” or as a “gay or lesbian bar and/or restaurant.” McGillion is mystified. “I don’t know what their problem is. Who knows? I thought those days were gone,” he said of the lease. “I mean, who cares, today? Gays — everybody’s got their rights. What’s the big deal?”
McGillion, who owns a strings of bars and restaurants in other parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, is concerned because he is operating at a loss. More troubling, efforts to sell the Lulu’s have been unsuccessful as Berger has threatened to triple the rent to prospective buyers.
The matter has been turned over to the Brooklyn Supreme Court where McGillion has filed papers and where the members of the court will have to decide which legal precedent stands: a legally-binding contract or the ability of a person to decide which person(s) may enter their business.
If history is any guide, McGillion has every reason to be optimistic.
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