Gringo Star Street Bar owner explains closure
The owner of the Gringo Star Street Bar in Tempe, Arizona said a manager posted the closure notice on Facebook before he had the chance to notify investors.
That’s one of the complaints investors stated when owner Julian Wright abruptly closed the popular bar located on Mill Avenue.
“There was no communication,” said an investor who trusted his money with Wright. “I found out Gringo Star closed when I saw it on Facebook.” The shareholder noted that there had been “street talk” that business was faltering and that it was apparent the bar was not doing well, however, he was “left in the dark.”
The Jan. 19 closure announcement was vague, leaving investors to wonder what was going on. They alleged Wright was a poor communicator and that it wasn’t until he was contacted by an investor that all investors were notified that the bar had been sold.
Wright said investors were aware he’d been trying to sell. “The investors that keep in touch with me had known about us trying to sell this business for a year now, including a time in October when it was in escrow and was supposed to close and then a day before it fell out so I didn’t want to get anyone too excited to look like this was a done deal.”
Wright sold the bar for $300,000 but had not received any money at the time of the sale. He said last week he has since received the money and investors will be paid.
The bar opened in 2013, offering arcade games, food, drinks, dancing and street art. The 6,500 square foot bar on the corner of 5th Street and Mill Avenue was once home to the Library Bar and Grill, another of Wright’s bar/restaurants. Gringo Star’s opening was highly anticipated from both a consumer and investor standpoint.
Shareholders said when the bar first opened, it appeared to be a sound investment. They said they did see a return on the funds they entrusted with Wright.
But after a couple years, they said things started going south. They no longer received dividends and Wright was difficult to reach. They allege when they asked questions about their investment or the financial health of the Gringo Star Street Bar, they were either ignored or not given an answer.
No government funding
When asked if he receives any government funding, Wright said, “No such thing exists for bars in Tempe.” He added, “I’m the biggest investor since day one.”
The Tempe city government was contacted for confirmation, however, did not respond. Phone calls were not returned and an email sent requesting the information under the Freedom of Information Act received no acknowledgement or response of any kind.
Wright said his businesses are privately financed and added that he’s very protective of his investors.
In response to allegations that he’s lax in his communication with his shareholders, Wright said, “I’m not the greatest communicator especially since I no longer have my company controlled who handled all the investor communications.” He said there are certain types of investors, such as those who complain or feel something underhanded is going on, that he no longer does business with. “I don’t accept money from investors like that anymore and so I’m ridding myself of those cancerous types of individuals.”
When asked why Gringo Star Street Bar wasn’t able to keep the doors open, Wright said Mill Avenue is very competitive. “After Gringo Star opened, countless other bars, seeing our success, opened around us and in better locations.” He added that there have been more bars that have failed on Mill Avenue than have been successful. Wright noted that a bar in a college town rarely has a lifespan beyond three years.
“The fact it lasted five years is pretty impressive,” he said.
Despite the investor complaints, Wright said no money was lost. “That’s the reality,” he said.