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Lefty O’Doul’s Fate Locked in Bitter Landlord Dispute

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Its future is unclear

Lefty O’Doul’s Lefty O’Doul’s/Facebook

Get ready for a classic San Francisco tale. Union Square baseball bar Lefty O’Doul’s is locked in a bitter dispute with its landlord Jon Handlery, who claims that the Lefty’s business — name and memorabilia — belongs to him. Meanwhile, owner Nick Bovis, whose family has operated Lefty’s since 1998, is trying to assert his ownership.

Bovis is closing and exiting that location on February 3, at which time he plans to reopen in a new, not-yet-finalized location. Which is a problem considering Handlery intends to renovate the current location and reopen Lefty O’Douls under the same name and with its current decor, the Chronicle reports.

The Handlery family allege that the lease terms give them ownership of Lefty’s, while Bovis owns the liquor license and has trademarks of the Lefty O’Doul’s name and food products (hot dogs, mustard, bloody mary mix and more).

This isn’t the first dispute between Bovis and Handlery — Handlery evicted Bovis’ Gold Dust Lounge out of 247 Powell St. five years ago, causing Bovis to sue (and lose to) Handlery. Now, Bovis doesn’t want a lawsuit this time around, though there may be no other option if he’d like to keep the Lefty’s business, which was started by retired major league baseball player Francis Joseph “Lefty” O’Doul in 1958.

Bovis is the third owner of the business (he also owns Spinnerie and Gold Dust Lunge), taking it over in 1998 and since turning it into a city favorite, where retirement ceremonies for SF police horses take place, there’s an annual Christmas toy drive, an annual Giants baseball game visit for local children, a Celtic band plays monthly, and tourists and visiting baseball players regularly stop by. Now, he wants to recreate the same community space elsewhere — with updated appliances and improved atmosphere — but may be blocked from doing so.

In a new statement from the Handlery family, they doubled down on their conviction that they own Lefty’s, writing:

Lefty O’Doul’s isn’t moving anywhere. The lounge and restaurant will remain at 333 Geary St. with all its memorabilia, baseball bat chairs, and new and improved food and management.

A bit of history regarding Lefty O’Doul’s bar and restaurant: The Handlerys leased the bar and restaurant to the legendary Lefty O’Doul and his partner in 1958. A succession of managers have operated the establishment over its almost 60 years of business. The most current manager of the establishment is Nick Bovis and his partners, who have been the tenants/leasee for approximately 10 years. Their lease ends Feb. 3 and they have publically [sic] pledged to move out on that date.

We wish Mr. Bovis much success elsewhere in his future restaurant endeavors.

The Lefty O’Doul bar and restaurant property, its memorabilia, and the interior contents (with the exception of its staff and big screen TVs) are all the property of the Handlerys and will remain with them.

After the restaurant closes Feb. 3, a renovation and refurbishment will begin. The memorabilia and interior of property will be part of the establishment in its new form.

We don’t have a grand re-opening date yet, but rest assured that Lefty’s will reopen under new and improved management in the same location at 333 Geary as part of the Handlery Hotel family of properties.

Stay tuned for updates as this story develops.