A Houston lounge owner is now in the middle of a rent dispute with her landlord over $73,000.
When the landlord showed up at Amahle Bar and Lounge on Friday, he saw the padlock that had been put on the door removed.
He confronted the lounge owner, LaDonna Wiggins, and then called the police, hoping officers would force the lounge to close.
However, employees at the lounge were determined to open Friday night, despite locks on the doors and notices posted.
“I don’t think anybody can think smart and break and enter a building,” Ayman Jarah, the landlord, said. “We have a sign: ‘No Trespassing.’ And we are expecting the cops to be here and they are supposed to exit.”
He said Wiggins hasn’t paid rent for two and a half months, but she denies that claim.
“We’ve already paid you,” Wiggins told him.
“When did you pay me?” Jarah asked.
“Here you go. You want to see it? We’ve already paid you, and also this is a letter from our attorney allowing us to be here,” she said.
Wiggins was indicted last year for bank fraud, for allegedly misusing $3.6 million in government money she obtained through the Paycheck Protection Program. PPP was a COVID-era program designed to help business owners continue paying their employees.
Investigators say Wiggins instead spent the money on homes, luxury vehicles, and pricey shopping trips. That case is still working its way through the courts.
In fact, just last month, a judge denied a motion by Wiggins’ lawyers to dismiss the case.
Reporters stopped by the lounge after getting a tip from a viewer that the owner was behind on rent. We saw the padlocks while the restaurant continued selling tickets for a block party it’s hosting Saturday.
Jarah and Wiggins never came to an agreement. Wiggins told reporters that Jarah was lying about not getting paid.
Police showed up and told Jarah he doesn’t have the authority to shut the restaurant down and that he’ll have to handle it in court.
Jarah says he’s going to do everything he can to stop Saturday’s block party.
“We’re going tomorrow to weld it. Bring the welder and weld every case,” he said.
A representative for Wiggins says there’s proof her rent is paid. Investigators asked to see those documents but have not heard back yet.