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Judge rules against bar in construction lawsuit (UPDATE)

A Milwaukee County Circuit judge ruled Wednesday that One Sports Lounge owes $38,161.37 to Hickorybridge Construction for renovations at the bar in 2010 and 2011. (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

By Beth Kevit

Eric Mahoney says he is worried a judge’s order could mean it’s closing time for his downtown Milwaukee sports bar.

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Daniel Noonan ruled Wednesday that One Sports Lounge LLC, Mahoney’s business, owes $38,161.37 for renovations at his bar in 2010 and 2011. Milwaukee-based Hickorybridge Construction LLC did the work, which included building out the bar, painting, improving the plumbing and electrical systems and installing tiling and hardwood floors.

The full tab came to $50,671.37, according to court records, but One Sports Lounge paid only $12,510.

Hickorybridge’s attorney, Christopher Nyenhuis of Milwaukee-based Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

In light of the order to pay, Mahoney said after the hearing his bar is open for now but might not be much longer.

“My business is struggling to make it,” he said. “I’m trying to pay the people back.”

Mahoney said he still contends Hickorybridge’s owner, Eric Stelske, was one of a group of investors in the bar and did the renovations as his contribution shortly before the bar opened.

Stelske has denied those claims.

Mahoney said his mistake was not getting the agreement in writing.

Hickorybridge sued One Sports Lounge in March 2012 and received default judgment in May after the bar missed its deadline to respond to the lawsuit. But Noonan reopened the case and canceled that judgment in August after One Sports Lounge’s attorney, Verona Swanigan, argued the bar’s response was lost in the mail.

However, Swanigan withdrew as counsel in November over nonpayment and difficulty communicating with Mahoney, according to court documents. Mahoney said he could not pay to replace her.

An LLC must have an attorney to argue in court, Noonan said during the hearing, so Mahoney, who appeared alone Wednesday, legally could not represent his business in the lawsuit.

Mahoney missed a deposition and did not respond to requests to admit facts relating to the lawsuit, Nyenhuis said during the hearing, citing those failures as evidence that the case should be decided in Hickorybridge’s favor.

Though Mahoney disagrees with the facts asserted by Nyenhuis and Hickorybridge, Noonan said, the lounge owner did not have an attorney to make those disagreements official. Therefore, in the eyes of the court, factual disputes in the case were eliminated.

“I realize you may have a struggling business, as many small businesses are today,” Noonan said during the hearing, “but I have to enforce the law as it is, not as I wish it would be.”

Hickorybridge’s claim against Joe Tairi, who owns One Sports Lounge’s building at 1003-1007 N. Old World Third St., will continue. A scheduling conference is set for June.

Though Wednesday’s order could force One Sports Lounge out of business, Mahoney said, he is not concerned about finding the money to pay Hickorybridge.

“I can’t be concerned if you don’t have it,” he said. “If you don’t have it, it’s like trying to get blood from a turnip.”

– Follow Beth on Twitter

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