Museum District Wine Bar & Restaurant Faces Eviction Over Parking & Other Disputes

The interior of wine bar and restaurant City Cellars HTX in the Museum District.

City Cellars HTX at 1801 Binz is facing eviction proceedings after a series of disputes mostly centered around the use of onsite parking spaces by owner Daniel Wolfe and his employees. The wine bar and restaurant, owned by Wolfe’s company, Wolfe and Wine, LLC, is located in the Parc Binz 1 mixed-use development, which, according to Texas Secretary of State filings, is directed and managed by Isam Balat of Balcor Parc Binz 1 LLC

On February 3, attorney R. Kyle Hawes of Chamberlain Hrdlicka White Williams & Aughtry sent City Cellars HTX a notice on behalf of Parc Binz 1 that includes a demand to vacate the space immediately, as well as for attorney fees of $5,460 to be paid within 30 days. (This followed prior default notices he sent on December 15 and 22.) In response, attorney Robert N. LeMay of Kane, Russell, Coleman and Logan filed a petition on behalf of City Cellars HTX asking Harris County District Court to find that it is not in default of the lease and that the eviction has no legal basis. It also is asking for “reasonable attorney fees.” 

Most contentions (but not all) relate to unauthorized use of parking spaces in the Parc Binz 1 garage. Surprisingly, City Cellars HTX’s lease has no provisions that allows Wolfe or any employees to use onsite parking spaces, even if they pay for them. The lease states, “No employee parking is provided by Landlord within the Project and Landlord shall have the right to remove the vehicles of Tenant’s employees, agents, contractors or subcontractors found parking within any portion of the Project, without liability of any kind for such act on the part of Landlord, its employees or agents.” That’s despite a sign in the garage indicating “Visitor & Staff Parking.” 

The lease does provide for customer parking in the garage, for which payment is required for durations of longer than 10 minutes. This includes six spaces shared by all restaurants in the development for to-go customers to park for a maximum of 10 minutes. Additionally, City Cellars HTX “may purchase unlimited parking vouchers to be distributed to customers at a charge payable to Landlord equal to $2.00 per parking voucher purchased.” However, there’s no provision allowing the restaurant to buy vouchers or for employees to pay normal rates in order to park in the garage. 

When asked why no parking spaces were designated for City Cellars HTX, Hawes responded, “​​As you can appreciate, this real estate parcel contains five stories and rests on an approximate 36,000 square foot lot.  It is small and contains a mixture of restaurants and professional office suites, thus there is a limited amount of space available for customers and clients to utilize for parking.  Finally, as a commercial property owner, Balcor has to manage these competing concerns in compliance with the local building codes and ordinances, with its other tenants and with the public at large.”

Daniel Wolfe, owner of City Cellars HTX
Daniel Wolfe, owner of City Cellars HTX. Photo by Sean Rainer.

Wolfe says that, although he had an attorney review the lease and negotiate other terms, the attorney did not bring the lack of onsite parking for staff to Wolfe’s attention, so he was initially unaware of the clause. “It wasn’t an issue until sometime around last March,” said Wolfe. “What’s crazy is every other tenant in the building parks in the garage. There’s actually a sign that says, ‘Visitor & Staff Parking’.” It’s because of this and that parking areas are defined as part of the “Common Area” for the “common use of all tenants” that Wolfe does not believe he’s violated the lease. 

He says that at one point, while undergoing cancer treatments, he emailed the property managers to notify them that he’d be away on a leave of absence. No parking was offered for when he returned to work. More recently, property management had both his and employee Kristy Dang’s car towed, which led to both filing for tow hearings — and that in turn is cited by the petition as another basis for evicting City Cellars HTX. A clause in the contract cites that if “Landlord is subjected to any legal process by any third party” due to actions “taken by Tenant,” it constitutes an “Event of Default.” 

visitor and staff parking sign in Parc Binz
A sign in the Parc Binz 1 garage designates an area for visitor and staff parking. Photo by Daniel Wolfe.

Wolfe has already had his tow hearing in Harris County Civil Court, and Judge Jim F. Kovach found that Wolfe’s car was towed without probable cause and ruled that Parc Binz 1 owes him a total of $811.35 for costs that include removal, storage and attorney fees. Wolfe says that, as of today, he still has not received payment. The court found in favor of Parc Binz 1 in Dang’s tow hearing, but she appealed, and the next one is on April 4. 

The remainder of Parc Binz 1’s allegations of City Cellars HTX’s defaults on the lease include “disturbing landscaping” (Wolfe says he only walked between a gap between bushes), failure to provide assurances that employees are being discouraged from parking in the garage and failure to provide a list of employee license plate numbers (ostensibly so the property management company could check and see if they were parking in the garage). 

For now, Wolfe says he and his employees are parking on the streets of the Museum District. A Justice of the Peace hearing on the merits of City Cellar HTX’s eviction notice is scheduled for March 28. 

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