After weeks of business-gone-awry rumors, owner Sherry Christensen was evicted on April 30 for failing to pay rent.
"I gave them three months free rent so they could get started and get going," said Wes Harris, owner of The Waterfront at Lake Harbor building on State Street, where Montego Bay is located. "They're just not good business operators. Employees' wages were not being paid on time, distributors weren't being paid, accounts were just a mess. They were just in over their heads."
Christensen purchased the business from Harris in December, in what she said was a high-pressure sale created to swindle her out of her money. A Horseshoe Bend resident, Christensen said she was looking for a business to buy to provide her with retirement income. When she looked at Montego Bay just after Christmas, she was told the property wasn't for sale but that Harris would sell it to her for $100,000—exactly the amount she had to spend—so long as the deal was closed by December 31.
"I think it's been a total setup," said Christensen. "I really feel like this was a thing that was set up and he planned on doing this right from the start."
Harris bought Montego Bay in 2003, when it was the neglected Docksider bar and restaurant. Over the last five years, it's become a popular as Harris extensively remodeled and expanded the space. He also rebuilt the bar's most unique feature—its waterside patios and docks.
Both Christensen and her personal assistant Steve Amsden, who's been advising Christensen and helping her to run the business, blame Harris for their failure. They allege that he failed to provide them with tax documents and account statements, and inflated the bar's projected profits.
Harris said he did everything he could for the pair except run the bar for them.
"Their pride is hurt, and they just feel like they've been done wrong," said Harris, who added that he sold Christensen the business without charging for the almost $4,000 worth of inventory in stock. "I just don't think they had any operating capital." However, Amsden said Harris was aware of the fact that Christensen was out of money.
"When we took the place we informed him at that time he took her $100,000 that left no operating capital, and he was aware of that fact when we walked in the door. If there's a qualification process to buying or leasing property, we certainly didn't meet up to the requirements of that. We didn't even have our first month's lease in the bank," said Amsden.
Harris also removed Montego Bay's liquor license prior to serving Christensen an eviction notice, an act Amsden claims is theft. Christensen's name is on the license, but she leases it from Harris. Officials at Alcohol Beverage Control confirmed that Harris has the power of attorney over the license, which allows him control under the provisions agreed to by both parties.
According to Harris, the final decision to remove the liquor license and evict Christensen came after he learned of her intention to partner with known criminals, an accusation both she and Amsden deny.
"We're not looking at gaining anything out of it," said Harris. "We just want to get someone in there who's a viable tenant because we have a lot of pride in the business." He plans to sell the business, get the doors reopened and recover Christensen's money for her.
Christensen is seeking legal counsel.