Downtown dive Clutch City Squire is at the center of a contract dispute with Barringer Bar & Lounge, a neighboring upstairs bar. The modern speakeasy announced its closing on Facebook and Twitter, citing an issue with its contract with Clutch City Squire.
According to close friends, Robby and Chieko Cook of Barringer— the husband and wife team who are minority partners in the business and well-regarded veterans in Houston's bar and restaurant industry— returned from their trip to Mexico to find the doors to the bar in chains. Allegedly, the chains were placed by Steven Hannigan and Jenna Gleespen, the two owners of Clutch City Squire. Both also lease the Downtown space for Clutch City Squire and Barringer Bar & Lounge. The Cooks were sub-leasing from Hannigan.
Clutch City Squire opened its doors last year in March, and Barringer started serving the following February. The combined sales of both bars nearly doubled, often tripling with each month. Both bars received their fair share of publicity since their respective openings and each offered a different nightlife experience. Like other new bars along Main Street, there seemed to be a spirit of community. Both bars cross-promoted their business with the other. A few weeks prior to the fallout, when all appeared seemingly well, Clutch City Squire promoted a pop-up kitchen Barringer was hosting on August 7th.
So where did it all go wrong? When reached for comment regarding the alleged lockout, contract dispute and possible expansion plans, Clutch City Squire laughed off requests for a discussion. Instead the downtown dive directed all inquires to their attorney, Clyde Burelson. Burelson declined to speak on the matter. but stated, "due to ongoing legal proceedings, both parties are to refrain from speaking on this matter."
The Cooks wouldn't say what led to the alleged lockout either under the advisement of their lawyer. Although the two couldn't confirm if they're looking for new digs, Chieko provided this comment, "[We] are very sad and disappointed that we were blindsided by our own bar closing." She went on to say, "This was a completely unfair and unethical way to treat a business partner and roommate after all of the cross promoting and positive press we both received since deciding to do business together."
Patrons of Barringer share the same sentiments and are taking the news of the bar's closing hard. Some have expressed their disbelief on the bar's Facebook page and others took to Twitter to show their support. Clutch City Squire has remained mostly mum about the situation. The bar did respond to a tweet suggesting the bar work out its difference for the better of the community by saying: "With all due respect, you have no idea what is going on."
While that may be true, it hasn't stopped Houston bartenders from banding together in support of Barringer. Alfonso Chable, founder of Liquid Ninja, a networking forum for bartenders across Texas on Facebook, is one of those bartenders. Chable has encouraged his members to show their solidarity for Barringer by posting hashtags like #NoToClutchCitySquire on social media. The protest has gained some traction since Saturday, but some question if it will negatively impact bartenders at Clutch City Squire who are innocent.
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