Editor’s note: The closure of Red Rooster Café and Collectibles in Gig Harbor has led to a controversial series of posts across multiple websites during the past few weeks. The following is a summary of the issue based on information posted publicly online. Quotes are (sic) throughout. Former Red Rooster owner Jamie Radcliffe declined the Gateway’s request for an interview. This post has been updated.
On Dec. 17, Gig Harbor was hit with a “king tide,” an extreme high tide that reached 13 1/2 feet at its highest point. Red Rooster Café and Collectibles, a restaurant in Arabella’s Landing Marina, 3313 Harborview Drive, was flooded with 6 inches of water as the tide overwhelmed parts of the waterfront.
Jamie Radcliffe, the owner of the Red Rooster, closed the restaurant for the next five days in order to address the water damage to the floor, equipment and supplies.
Since then, there has been a public dispute regarding the interpretation of the signed lease agreement, and the owners of Gig Harbor Marina, which had leased the property to Radcliffe since August 2010, evicted her, citing more than $23,000 in documented debt.
Radcliffe estimates she lost more than $5,000 due to the flooding, according to her post on “Red Rooster Unplugged,” a Blogspot page Radcliffe launched this month. She wrote that calls placed to John Moist, the general manager of Arabella’s Landing, and to Stan and Judy Stearns, the owners of the property, were not returned during the closure period.
Moist provided documents to the Gateway that show a maintenance contractor worked for eight hours to help clean up after the flood at the landlord’s expense.
The Red Rooster reopened Dec. 22. Six days later, Radcliffe wrote that Moist called her and asked to meet with her that afternoon.
During that meeting, on Dec. 28, Moist presented Radcliffe with a letter he had written that revoked her lease, effective Jan. 1, due to outstanding rent charges.
Radcliffe acknowledges on Red Rooster Unplugged that she had outstanding debt. She wrote that, since her business was much stronger during the summer than it was in the winter, she would sometimes pay less during the winter months than the lease agreement specified.
Radcliffe wrote that she and Stan Stearns “communicate(d) regularly” about monthly payments.
“Each month when business was slow, I would personally contact him, being honest and open with him when I was not able to pay the full amount stated on the lease,” Radcliffe wrote. “His response was always that I should pay ‘what I was able and keep working hard.’”
Every month, Radcliffe wrote on her blog, she would write a rent check for “the amount I was able. Some months I would fall short of the amount on the lease agreement and others I would pay more than required in the lease.”
She added that she “never asked Mr. Stearns to formally revise the lease making the payment lower during the winter months as I trusted that our verbal communication was sufficient.”
Lease documents and billing statements provided to the Gateway show Radcliffe agreed to defer the cost of 10 months’ rent, or $15,626.73, as well as to repay a loan of $11,000 “for the purchase of food and cooking utensils,” when she signed a lease agreement on July 5, 2011. The costs date back to Aug. 1, 2010, when the restaurant opened.
Further documentation provided by Stearns' daughter, Julia, shows a running tally of overdue rent from November 2010 to December 2012, resulting in a total overdue payment of $23,231.73. The documents show Radcliffe made a payment on Dec. 12 of $1,000 — $1,325 less than what was owed for the month.
Radcliffe wrote on Red Rooster Unplugged that, in spring 2011, she needed to buy several items in order to “meet the needs of the busy summer months,” including a new dishwasher and additional refrigeration units. Radcliffe’s father flew in from Nashville to meet with Moist about investing in his daughter’s business.
Her father “asked Mr. Moist what Mr. Stearns’ intensions were regarding any underpayments made on the lease payments,” Radcliffe wrote on her blog. “He advised Mr. Moist that he preferred not to invest if there were the possibility of the money quickly being lost. Mr. Moist assured me and my father that he not need to have any concern in that regard, as Mr. Stearns had no intension of closing the business or demanding any repayment of the monies.”
Radcliffe wrote her father took out a loan from his 401(k) to purchase the needed items and also continued to act as a silent investor. Radcliffe added that she stayed in regular contact with Stearns and Moist and that “(t)he checks from July 2012 through October 2012 were all made for higher than the amount stated in the lease.”
She wrote on the Red Rooster’s Facebook page that, after Moist gave her the eviction notice Dec. 28, “(t)here was absolutely no consideration taken into the fact that there were investors that have contributed.”
On her blog, Radcliffe wrote it was a surprise to receive the eviction letter, which asked her to vacate in three days.
“I had never received any invoices, written communications, or any written or oral statements regarding the alleged amount of money the Red Rooster owed Mr. Stearns,” she wrote. “Certainly, I was aware that the Red Rooster had not paid full rent, but until December 28, 2012, I was always advised by Mr. Stearns that he appreciated my effort, that he did not need the money, and to keep working hard to make the Red Rooster a success. I did so.”
Moist provided the Gateway with an email to Stan Stearns, dated Nov. 30, that stated Radcliffe approached him regarding the coming months.
Radcliffe “came to me and asked us to give her until the end of the year before evicting her,” Moist wrote in a Jan. 5 post on Gig Harbor Patch. “Miss Radcliffe was aware that winter was upon her and she would be unable to pay her full rent as occurred in 2010 and 2011.”
Moist said he alerted Stan Stearns to the conversation in the Nov. 30 email.
“Stan, Jamie paid $1,000.00 toward her November 2012 invoice,” the email read. “Out of the blue she said to me that if we want her to quit the business, please give her until January 1st.”
Moist wrote on Patch that Stearns had told him many times he wanted to give the Red Rooster opportunities to succeed but “enough was enough. Anymore and his support and benevolence would turn into a very poor business decision.”
Radcliffe turned to Facebook after the eviction letter was given to her Dec. 28 and posted on the Red Rooster’s page the news that the restaurant would close.
“I have been informed that the building owner has arranged for someone else to re-open the restaurant within the next few months as the new owner,” she wrote.
On Red Rooster Unplugged, Radcliffe wrote that Moist told her “a well known restaurant owner from the area would be reopening the Red Rooster, keeping the same name, keeping the same menu, and ask me to immediately sign the (letter, which authorized the lease settlement agreement).”
Moist’s letter, an image of which Radcliffe posted on Red Rooster Unplugged, also requested that Radcliffe turn over “intellectual property which you will provide to our satisfaction.” That included the rights to the café’s name, logos and branding, as well as inventory, website and social media information, contract information and a three-year non-compete agreement.
“All current Red Rooster employees will need to apply for work with our LLC,” the letter stated.
When the story was posted on Gig Harbor Patch earlier this month, Moist wrote an explanation on the website and said it was “time to put an end to the untruths and false accusations spilling forth from social media comments.”
As part of the discussion on Patch, Moist wrote that the letter he gave Radcliffe was “a ‘settlement agreement.’ ”
“In return for her walking away from the business in an orderly manner, leaving everything behind except for her roosters to include leaving the space clean,” Moist wrote, “she would be forgiven her debt of more than $34,000.00.”
Radcliffe refused to sign.
Moist told the Gateway last week he is not looking to reopen the Red Rooster under different ownership.
“I have no interest in another Red Rooster,” he said.
The initial post on the Red Rooster’s Facebook page generated 147 comments. Many were from community members who offered support, but a few comments from Stan Stearns’ daughters and Stearns’ office manager accused Radcliffe of “(having) never paid a single lease payment,” according to a follow-up post Radcliffe wrote on the same page.
Those comments have since been deleted.
Radcliffe wrote that the commenters deleted their comments within a half-hour of posting them. She posted screenshots of the comments of the office manager, Mollie Ende DeFrancesco, on another Blogspot page, “What would Jesus do?” that Radcliffe started on Jan. 14.
In one of the three comments Radcliffe posted on Blogspot, DeFrancesco wrote, “If you had paid your rent even once do you think the owner would be doing this to you???”
Radcliffe then posted screenshots of websites that linked DeFrancesco to Stearns.
The follow-up post also has been deleted from Facebook, but the Gateway obtained screen shots of the post and its comments.
Moist wrote on Patch that “(of) the 29 months Miss Radcliffe’s Lease Agreement was in effect Mr. Stearns deferred payments for a total of 11 months.” He wrote that Radcliffe paid in full on four occasions and overpaid four more times, “for a total overpayment of $2,208.00. Of course this overpayment total went towards the months she was short or paid nothing.”
Radcliffe wrote that the social media pages were being manipulated. She also wrote that the conversation regarding giving her until the end of the year before the business would close never took place.
On Jan. 2, a post on the Red Rooster Facebook page stated, “My posts keep being deleted and all of my comments as well. I have changed my password. I am baffled!”
As recently as Sunday, a post on the Red Rooster Facebook page attempted to put an end to the discussion.
“To me, winning is not important,” the post read. “I want more than anything to just move on. Let go. When I met with the property manager I left the restaurant happy.... Completely unaware in any way that when I walked out the door, I would never walk in again without feeling pain and loss. Never did I imagine that two and a half years would end with three days to be completely out. In my mind I was going to own the Rooter forever. And if I did not, my family and staff would go away smiling.”