July 23, 2010 at 10:53 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
'Exorbitant' rent forces MOVA to move

D.C. gay bar MOVA, formerly known as Halo, is planning to move to a new but undetermined location in D.C., according to owner Babak Movahedi.

Movahedi dismissed as “silly” and untrue rumors that he planned to close the bar this summer.

“We’re not closing down MOVA, that’s for sure,” he told the Blade. “I don’t know where that came from. But because of the exorbitant amount of rent that we pay, we are looking to move the location to a different area.”

Movahedi said his rent exceeds $25,000 a month and his landlord has declined to negotiate a more affordable rent, even though MOVA paid the full cost of a major renovation of the interior space at 1435 P St., N.W., where the bar is located.

“No one can survive on that,” he said. “So we are seriously looking at different locations to move MOVA, not to close MOVA.”

Movahedi said he has three possible locations in mind and will make an announcement as soon as “the signatures are on the paper.”

David Lett, the local female illusionist and drag show host who goes by the name Lena Lett, is Movahedi’s landlord. He disputed Movahedi’s assertion that he declined to enter into discussions over a possible change in the lease.

Lett said he holds the master lease on the building and worked out a sublease with Movahedi when Movahedi bought the shares of the old Halo bar from his then three business partners. Lett was one of the partners.

According to Lett, Movahedi violated the lease when he failed to pay the property tax on the building, which was a requirement of the lease. He said he has since filed suit against Movahedi in the city’s landlord-tenant court alleging a lease violation.

Lett’s attorney, Roy Kaufmann, said in an e-mail to the Blade that he and his client are hopeful that differences between MOVA and Lett can be resolved before the case comes before a judge.

“I would only point out that Mr. Movahedi, himself a confident attorney and seasoned businessman, was part-owner of the business when the lease was negotiated and, presumably, he knew the business,” Kaufmann said. “He was also ably represented by a well-reputed law firm. The final version of the lease (after almost a dozen iterations over several months) reflects thorough, informed, and deliberate negotiations between knowledgeable businessmen who signed an agreement and expected it to be honored.”

Movahedi could not be immediately reached to respond to the accounts of Lett and his attorney.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Wow what an investigative and thoughtful piece. If you’re nice to me I’ll give you the list of seven other blogs predicting things about local businesses shutting down. Gotta love the “?” in the headline.

  • Reduce the prices, make the drinks larger. You will get more customers…

  • Whatever. 12-15 bucks for a sugary cocktail is too much. Not to mention a bunch of uncalled for attitude. These foo foo bars come and go. While the regular guy and dive bars stay forever. They might want to see what
    keeps the Fireplace, the Eagle and JR’s open so many years.

  • Gentrification, over-priced drinks, foo-foo bar…: What, no one is going to mention the not-so-subtle racism that was on display, when they still had crowds there on Friday nights? Where, for whatever reason, the 1st-floor crowd was predominantly African-American and then the velvet rope goes up, allowing guest-list-only access to the 2nd floor? I mean, short of a “Whites Only” sign on the chain restricting access to the 2nd floor, how much more obvious could it have been….?

    • I know! that was so bizarre to me that it could happen in DC in this day and age – also dont forget they *did* used to have cheaper drinks, 2 for one, etc, and then when African Americans started coming the prices virtually doubled – coincidence? I don’t get it.

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