Silver Spring night club evicted
Closure coincides with complaints of patrons causing disturbance
A south Silver Spring restaurant has been evicted by its property owner for violating its lease by operating as a night club and missing rent payments, a move that has relieved residents who blamed late-night disturbances on the restaurant's patrons.
The Gallery restaurant and night club, formerly at 1115 East West Highway in Silver Spring, was evicted April 5 by its property owner Barry Soorenko, who claims management of the restaurant violated the lease and didn't pay thousands of dollars in rent over the past few months.
"I was very specific in my lease that they were not permitted to have a night club," Soorenko said of the original lease he signed with Gallery owners in 2005. "I wanted something inclusive in the neighborhood."
When the restaurant first opened in 2005, it was a popular Latin restaurant, Soorenko said. But due to construction of several nearby apartment buildings in the burgeoning south Silver Spring neighborhood, access to the building was limited and sales dwindled, Soorenko said. Two years ago, the original owners left the business and hired a new private operator, which gradually turned the restaurant into a night club, Soorenko said.
Soon after, rent payments became scarcer, the restaurant closed for lunch and much of the activity at the location was private, for-profit parties that ran late at night, Soorenko said.
"After not receiving any rent at all in October, I had to file for eviction," he said.
Around that same time, residents began complaining of late-night disturbances at the nearby Kennett Street parking garage, a county-owned facility where residents and police say between 40 and 60 people would congregate around 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
"Almost like clockwork, people would show up in the garage," said Sandy Mack, a member of the condominium association at the 8045 Newell Street residential building. "Instead of heading on their own way, they started partying in the garage."
Arrival of the crowds, which would stay in the garage for close to an hour, coincided with the closing time of the Gallery, and they would often honk their car horns and set off car alarms, play loud music, drink alcohol and urinate in public, said Lt. Paul Liquorie of the Montgomery County Police Third District.
"It's fair to say that much of the parking garage problem was attributed to them," Liquorie said of the Gallery patrons. The only other business that provides a large number of users to the Kennett Street garage is the nearby satellite offices of Discovery Communications, Liquorie said.
After the disturbances persisted, residents of the nearby 8045 Newell Street apartment building called police and first met to address the problem in March. Police added the Gallery to its routine late-night patrol stops, but most of the loitering was not criminal, and the Gallery was in compliance with alcohol consumption laws, Liquorie said.
Police were in the process of reaching out to county agencies to better patrol the garage when "the problem handled itself" on April 5, Liquorie said.
On April 4, Gallery management "disappeared and cleaned out the place," Soorenko said. E-mail attempts to contact the Gallery's former ownership and management, who Soorenko say live in locales scattered around the world, were not returned.
The Gallery itself did not harbor any type of criminal activity, Liquorie said, and Soorenko insists the parking garage behavior had no influence on the eviction. But for residents, any kind of night club is a bad fit for their neighborhood.
"There's a fair amount of people in downtown Silver Spring who would welcome a more vibrant night life," said Evan Glass, president of the South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association. "The Gallery was an outlet for that need, but the problem is making sure the clientele is courteous to its surroundings."
Soorenko said he is pursuing a sports bar or music venue as a tenant for the vacant space, which he hopes can become a community staple as he had originally envisioned and after another of his tenants, Mayorga Coffee Factory, relocated from 8040 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring to Takoma Park.
Glass said residents have welcomed that approach.
"People want somewhere they can call their Cheers' and hang out with other neighbors and not have to travel very far," he said. "Especially as more and more people are moving into the area and they like what they see."