A place of good times came to a bitter end last week with the closing of The Dubliner, a Pleasant Ridge institution that won Best Celtic Pub in CityBeat's Best of Cincinnati® issue the past five years.
The Dubliner's demise is linked to an attempt at establishing a new neighborhood institution — the Ridge Market, a collection of small businesses under one roof at a former IGA. When the market, modeled on Findlay Market, opened in 2002, Mike Kull used his pub to secure the lease.
"There were nine other investors in the idea and a lot of community support, so I was willing to go out on a limb there," he says. "When the Ridge Market ceased to operate, then closed, it became my financial obligation to take over that lease, at which point I couldn't handle both buildings."
Kull says he still believes in his decision.
"I'm sorry, but you can't build a community strictly on money," he says. "Some of it has to be because you want things to happen, and it may not be the best business decision but you're willing to take the chance because you believe in your community. Some people do it on a civic level and it's a gamble, win or lose. That happened to be me."
The failed investment isn't what made the closing of The Dubliner a bitter experience; that's the result of the change in ownership.
The building went into foreclosure in October 2005. Kull says he found a buyer willing to pay the bank's asking price, close to current market value. But Dan Neyer of Neyer Properties bypassed the foreclosure sale and purchased the property for significantly less, according to Kull.
"We were in lease negotiations from October, when he bought the building," Kull says. "We kept trying to get a lease together, and he wanted just extraordinary security to guarantee the lease. By 'extraordinary,' I mean he wanted the liquor license, he wanted furniture and fixtures, he wanted my personal house, he wanted three months rent — all of that for a short-term lease, a six-month lease. I said, 'No, no, no.'
"Then on Christmas Eve he serves me with a writ to vacate. That means you have 30 days to vacate the premises. So I ask him, 'What's this all about? We're negotiating a lease.' He goes, 'It just my fallback position in case we don't get the lease done. I want to know it's going to get done in a certain amount of time. As long as we get the lease done, I'll release that.' "
Neyer says the papers were served Dec. 23 but refuses to discuss details.
"It doesn't matter," he says. "It's all about rate, obligation and commitment."
Neyer says he enforced the notice to vacate because he didn't believe Kull would sign a satisfactory lease.
"Since he was told a week ago this past Friday that I had decided to lease the building to another group of investors, he has since totally ripped out and destroyed the inside of the building in direct violation of his own attorney's recommendation and a court order," Neyer says.
Kull says he took the bar, kitchen equipment and other items because Neyer only purchased the building itself. Neyer reused to discuss details of the dispute.
"Frankly, I don't think we need to talk any more about specific items," Neyer says. "It's his fabrication of whatever he believes the truth is."
On the last two nights The Dubliner was open it was packed.
"Thousands of people just coming to say they were sad it see it go," Kull says. "It was like St. Patrick's Day Tuesday and Wednesday. We had a pub singer up on the bar Wednesday night doing a final toast — 'Tears and Pints,' he called it. It was a tearjerker both nights. It'll never be the same again."
Kull says he's looking to the future.
"I've had had probably eight to 12 offers of doing multiple locations of The Dubliner in the true Irish Pub style that The Dubliner was," he says.
His biggest regret? "There's 32 people out of work unexpectedly," Kull says. "If someone can help 32 people to find jobs quickly, that would make me happy. I want to see these people not suffer."
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