An ugly rumor predicting the imminent demise of The Ale House [2425 West Alabama, (713)521-2333] has been making the rounds lately. The Ale House will be demolished, the story goes, to make way for the parking lot of a new retail center.
You see, the funky, white century-old house that The Ale House has inhabited for the last 20 years faces Alabama, one block east of Kirby, at the epicenter of a development area that has gone ballistic.
Across the street at the northeast corner of Kirby and Alabama is the almost completed but still empty megacenter waiting for Whole Foods to move in next summer (see Dish, March 11, 1999). On the southeast corner next door to The Ale House, the Momentum Motor Cars luxury auto dealership is slated to become the cornerstone of a second, similarly upscale shopping strip. Scuttlebutt has it that the wrecking ball will swing through the car dealer's showroom on October 1; the dealership confirms that all the pre-owned Mercedes, Jags and BMWs have to be out of the way by September 30. Both these centers are projects of The Ainbinder Company, a local real estate development firm whose signs plaster the intersection in question.
"Is The Ale House closing? No, there's no truth to that story whatsoever," says Michael Holliday, who with partner Shaun Wymes owns The Ale House as well as the Richmond Arms and the Houston Brewery. "Sure, they've been trying to get us out of here, but we're not leaving."
According to Holliday, The Ainbinder Company, whose representatives categorically refused any comment on this situation, has acquired all the property around The Ale House for the new center. Says Holliday, "They've got us completely landlocked." The new two-block Ainbinder shopping center is projected to be one of the priciest on the Upper Kirby strip; rumor has it that either Borders Books or Barnes & Noble will become the anchor tenant, along with at least two national chain restaurants.
In what might be construed as a preemptive strike, last year Holliday was able to purchase the property housing the pub. "And we paid top dollar for it, too."
"Then Ainbinder tried to buy us and just assumed they could, but we have deeper pockets than they think we have," Holliday concludes with satisfaction.
He believes Ainbinder then declared war against The Ale House. "They've been trying to make our lives miserable," he explains. "They didn't actually tell anybody we were closing, but they distributed a plan map that represented our site razed for a parking lot, so I'm sure that's where the rumor started. They've taken away the parking lot we rented from them, and now they're trying to get City Council to cut the parking in the street. They've called the authorities on us -- you know, just a lot of things to try to force us out.
"We have a lawsuit against Ainbinder, and they have a lawsuit against us. Actually, we originally had three lawsuits with them, but we already won the first one, where they tried to claim we bought the building improperly. Looks like we'll be spending more time and more money in court." He groans.
So rest assured that though the pub and its patio are beleaguered, the 30-something brands of draft suds, the meat pies and the dartboards, even the famous Ale House ghosts, are safe from the wrecking ball. "We may stick out like a sore thumb in this project, but we're truly part of this neighborhood, and they're not," says Holliday. "We're not going anywhere."