Directors, Reality Housewives and the Sad Story of WeHo's 'Death Corner'
By Neal Broverman
The corner of Santa Monica and Robertson boulevards in West Hollywood is typically packed with LGBT party animals walking, running, or strutting their way to The Abbey, Micky's, Rage, or the area's other bars, clubs, and restaurants. But right on that corner is prime real estate that has seen a lot of business turn-over in recent years — and it's now embroiled in a lawsuit involving everyone from gay Independence Day director Roland Emmerich to Bravo housewife Lisa Vanderpump.
The star of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Vanderpump Rules hopes to open a new club, called P.U.M.P. Lounge, at the southeast corner of SMB and Robertson. But the witty Brit has found herself served with a lawsuit from two men, both former employees of The Abbey and one who claims to have previously been with Emmerich.
By at least 2009, those two men, Ryan Carrillo and Andrew Gruver, set their sights on the SMB/Robertson space, hoping to build a sports bar called Bar Varsity (ostensibly before Vanderpump had eyes for it). Carrillo and Gruver, The Abbey's one-time general manager and promotions manager, respectively, joined forces with businessmen Freddy Braidy, Edward Frumkes, and Elie Samaha, with Samaha agreeing to invest $500,000 in Bar Varsity. Braidy, Frumkes, and Samaha also agreed to help negotiate the permit process with the city, while Carrillo and Gruver would help find more investments through their connections with the "power gay elite," including Gruver's boyfriend at that time, Emmerich. The two groups would co-own the gay sports bar when it all came together.
Well, it didn't. Braidy, Frumkes, and Samaha paid rent on the space as it was built out, but the power gay money didn't happen, according to WeHoville.com. Gruver and Carrillo only managed to solicit $30,000 and then disappeared, allegedly. At some point, Vanderpump took over with her own establishment and then Gruver and Carrillo reappeared and slapped the reality star and the other three investors with a lawsuit, accusing the men of secretly corroborating with Vanderpump and mucking up their chances at financial success — Vanderpump denies any wrongdoing.
The three investors filed a counter-suit against the ex-Abbey employees saying they reneged on their side of the deal, kept the $30,000 themselves, and are now just trying to make a buck off of Vanderpump. Pending mediation happens on May 28 to possibly dismiss the counter-charges. But in the interim, the southeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Robertson continues to sit idle, living up to its nickname of "Death Corner."