Call it the rumble over the Rumba Room. Last week reported that Universal CityWalk filed an “unlawful detainer action” against the club in an effort to give it the boot from the popular entertainment mall.
Now comes word that the Room is suing Universal over the action, claiming that “CityWalk owners to have breached the terms of their existing contract and to have engaged in arbitrary and discriminatory actions directed toward the Rumba Room and its largely Latino patrons,” according to a statement from the venue.
Ay! This is getting espicy. Especially because …
… the folks at Universal say there is no discrimination here: They want to replace this Latina-owned venue with a Latino-owned club to be called Infusion Lounge.
The Rumba Roomians have cast their situation in light of the controversial closing of BB King's Blues Club, the Walk's only African-American-owned venue, about two years ago.
However, while the Rumba Room has been spun as the Walk's only Latina-owned venue (and that “a” will be very important here), Universal notes that it has long had a Latino (note the “o” — for masculine) tenant in the form of Andy Camacho, who opened Camacho's Cantina there in 1993.
In fact, Camacho is backing the Walk in this, stating in a letter that Universal has indeed welcomed minority-owned businesses there.
Of course, it's long been known that the Walk has had a few minor issues with occasional unsavory type (and you can read into that whatever ethnic stereotype comes to your mind — we're not going there) causing trouble once in a while there in the past. (Note all those qualifiers). We're sure Universal would like to get a 10 foot poll between it and that statement, but there it is.
Does that mean CityWalk is bouncing brown people?
Here's what Rumba owner Delia Hauser said in a statement released Wednesday:
“The suit filed makes clear our intention to fight for our ability to remain open for business here at Universal CityWalk. Our suit brings to light the underhanded tactics CityWalk representatives have used to try to force us to close our doors. Rumba Room has been nothing less than a profitable enterprise for CityWalk, generating millions in revenues without ever missing a rent payment.”
Here's the core of the dispute:
Universal indicates that while Rumba has paid its rent, it hasn't met another obligation under its lease, an aspect that we'll call revenue-sharing targets. Tenants of malls such as retailers and restaurants often have leases that include a cut of revenues based on projections. Kind of like gang “taxes” for drug dealers. But legit.
Universal says Rumba was a FAIL on that part.
The Rumba suit, which alleges breach of contract, discrimination and unfair competition, claims that at a May 2009 meeting about possibly extending the club's lease for five years Universal “representatives agreed to waive” the revenue sharing aspect of its lease.
Roomians don't appear to be denying that they failed on the revenue-sharing goals. But they're saying, essentially, that they were off the hook as far as that aspect of the deal went.
Universal appears to have wanted the Rumba out by the beginning of this year to make way for the new venue — Infusion Lounge.
On Wednesday, Eliot Sekuler, a public relations vice president at Universal Studios Hollywood, told the Weekly this:
“There's not a word of truth to support these claims [in Rumba's lawsuit]. We're confident that when the facts of this case come out in a court of law–where this matter belongs–the court will rule in our favor.”