Lucy Florence Lockout: Business or Personal?

Lucy Florence Cultural Center wants to thank the community for its continued support. Our goal has always been to serve the community with dignity and integrity, and to that end want clear up some rumors and lies that have been spread about our lockout from the space in Leimert Park.

It is not true that we have not paid rent to the landlords, Fred and Virginia Calloway. When Mr. Calloway first issued a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit in September of last year, we informed him in writing that we had in fact overpaid him over the previous two years in an amount over $10,000. The overpayments occurred because Mr. Calloway had a habit of coming by whenever he wanted/needed money and publicly asking for money in the presence of Lucy Florence customers and business associates. In order to placate him, we would pay him some money when he made the request. He did not keep proper records of these transactions, by his own admission. Fortunately, we had Mr. Calloway sign our receipts so we would have a record. When we brought the issue of the overpayment to Mr. Calloway's attention, he responded by filing an unlawful detainer lawsuit against us.

We answered the lawsuit and appeared for trial. Before trial, we presented Mr. Calloway and his attorney with the proof of overpayment. Mr. Calloway indicated that he would serve us with a 30-day notice if we took the issue to trial. In order to keep the community asset, Lucy Florence, open to serve our community, and with some questionable advice from our counsel at the time, we put aside the issue of the overpayment and agreed to enter a Stipulation and Judgement with Mr. Calloway. The judgement was for $8000, but the payments to be made under the Stipulation included future rent payments and totalled about $26,000.

As of March 2011, we had made 6 of 8 payments under the Stipulation, and had paid all but $7468 of the total. We were called to Atlanta on a medical emergency with our 90 year old mother. We informed Mr. Calloway of our need to leave town and he indicated we would settle up when we returned. When we returned, we were served with a Notice to Vacate.

We hired new legal counsel and went to court to fight the effort to remove us from the space after we had substantially complied with the Stipulation and were told by Mr. Calloway that we would deal with the payment on our return from Atlanta. At the hearing, which occurred the day we were to vacate, we agreed to pay additional funds to Mr. Calloway's attorney in order to honor our commitments for the weekend and see if we could make new arrangements for the last payment under the Stipulation. Mr. Calloway's attorney was not willing to give us more time at that time because he had not spoken with Mr. Calloway to get his approval. We paid the additional $4534 on Wednesday, April 20th to keep the doors open with the belief that Mr. Calloway and his counsel were negotiating in good faith.

From that time through today, we have made every effort to give Mr. Calloway the final payment and resolve this issue.  Our attorney has sent emails and left messages for Mr. Calloway's attorney without the courtesy of a response. We have been offering to make the final payment  of $2934 since Friday, April 22, 2011, only two days after paying the $4534. Mr. Calloway has refused to accept our final payment and has chosen, instead, to lock us out of the building and to evict Lucy Florence from his building in Leimert Park.

Through your patronage, donations, and support, we were able to meet the challenge of offering Mr. Calloway monies so that he would be paid in full under the Stipulation and Judgement. Unfortunately, Mr. Calloway is not interested in keeping a paying and vibrant arts and culture landmark operating in our community. Mr. Calloway is not making a rational business decision. This is a personal vendetta. Is it because evicting us keeps him from addressing the violations recently cited by the Department of Building & Safety? Is it because our insurance company recently informed us that the damage caused to our goods after a recent rain were the fault of the landlord for failing to maintain the rain gutters? Is it a form of discrimination? We don't know and, frankly, we don't care.

This is bigger than us. This is about the community, and the responsibility to treat the community with caution, care, compassion, and good character. That hasn't happened here with the disrespectful way that we, our tenants, our partners, our supporters, and our community have been treated by Mr. Calloway by his actions in his situation.  It is always our preference to resolve business issues in private and with civility. Unfortunately, this was made impossible due to the deception and malicious intent of these actions. Rumors are circulating that Lucy Florence is being evicted for non-payment of rent. We thought it only fair and right that we set the record straight as we thank you for your continued support and hold out hope that Lucy Florence Coffeehouse and Cultural Center remains a jewel of Leimert Park Village.

With love, gratitude and respect,

Ron & Richard Harris
Owners, Lucy Florence Cultural Center
(323) 747-5364

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