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"It's more than just paying money. It is an array of things. Five years ago when I renewed the lease he squeezed me then, and I paid it," Club Masque owner Luke Liakos says as part of a six-minute video posted to Facebook Sunday.
“The rent here is ridiculously high. That's one aspect. So when the renewal came up this time, he's really trying to squeeze me even more.”
Liakos announced two weeks ago that the second level of the gay dance club would close this Saturday, Jan. 18.
The first level is slated to close next Saturday, Jan. 25.
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He says he is exploring at least three other locations for the club. Jerid Martel and Matt Ross, the owners of MJ’s on Jefferson next door, have offered his employees jobs, Liakos said.
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This news organization made multiple attempts beginning Sunday, Jan. 12, to reach Liakos and Encino, Calif.-based Aryana Property, the limited liability company that owns the property at 34 S. Jefferson St., Masque’s home since it opened Dec. 25, 2004.
Liakos declined requests to elaborate on his comments posted to Facebook.
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Reached by phone Friday, Jan. 17, Houshang Lavian, Aryana Property’s owner, said the future of the 34 S. Jefferson property is not yet clear.
“I don’t know what we are going to do,” he said. “We will be looking to see.”
He referred questions regarding a legal dispute between his company and Liakos to his attorney, Dayton attorney Marty Beyers.
A message was left for Beyers on his answering machine.
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As part of his video, Liakos says he has a lawsuit pending against the Aryana Property over a payment he says he wired to Lavian.
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“I've spent probably $120,000 in legal on that. And part of him renewing our lease is he wanted me to drop that lawsuit, which I refuse to do. He wants me just to eat those attorney fees,” Liakos said.
A bench trial is set for 9 a.m. March 18 in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Mary Wiseman’s court room.
The dispute resulted in a lawsuit in June 2018 that remains unresolved after more than 18 months.
Aryana Property LLC filed an eviction lawsuit against Liakos and the LLC that operates Club Masque on June 1, 2018, in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.
The lawsuit claims Masque violated the terms of its lease with Aryana by not paying rent, and an eviction notice was served in May 2018. A subsequent amended complaint claimed Liakos and his LLC failed to properly maintain the premises. In court documents, Liakos and his company said the rent was paid, and the property was properly maintained.
A flurry of legal activity has ensued, some documents referencing a third party who appeared to have stolen the landlord's identity and convinced the tenant to send rent payments via wire that were never received by the landlord.
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Both sides in the dispute tried to convince a judge to rule in their favor via a summary judgment prior to a trial, but Wiseman rejected those requests and has scheduled a trial for March 18.
Liakos said his lease requires him to pay for improvements to the building and damage.
“I foresee approximately half a million dollars worth of improvements that are going to need to be done to this building, which I refused to absorb,” he said. “He would not negotiate on any of that. And he tried to squeeze us and raise the rent.”
Liakos is the founder of Diamonds Cabaret in Centerville and owner of Liakos Real Estate Holdings, the domestic limited liability company that owns 44 N. Jefferson St., the home of Wayne Kelley's bar, The Stage Door.
On the video, he says he attempted to purchase the building that houses Masque for $1.2 million, but the building’s owner declined.
The dance club has hosted some of the nation’s biggest drag performers, fashion shows and a host of community events since opening in the former site of 1470 West.
Liakos says he was thankful for and humbled by the support and encouragement he has received.
“(I) really didn't have any idea what this place meant to somebody ... it's just really nice to hear and it's humbling,” he says in the video.