The former proprietor of a Midtown nightspot is defending himself from allegations that he had a hand in the eviction-eve destruction which the building’s owner said caused at least $50,000 in damage.
But a partner in an entertainment company which booked bands for the final night at The Basement tells a different story.
The conflicting accounts come as police are working to piece together what exactly happened in the early-morning hours of Oct. 8, shortly before landlord H. Lee Wind was due to serve eviction papers on Rob Stango, who had run the popular entertainment venue at 744 Broadway since 2007. What is clear is that the bar was left in ruins with large holes in the drywall, smashed mirrors and fixtures, including lights, toilets, ceiling fans and the heating system torn out. Kingston Police Chief Egidio Tinti said that cops were reviewing photos and video from that night and working to identify individual perpetrators. But the big question remains whether Stango, who says he was forced out by a landlord who wanted control of the lucrative business which he had built up, was the prime mover behind the destruction.
Stango, a Kingston native who returned to the city from San Diego to run the bar, said the problems between he and Wind dated to late last year when a combination of factors, including a burglary and slowdown in business, left him $9,000 behind on the rent. Among the problems, Stango said, was a leaky roof which he claimed led to the ruin of expensive sound equipment.
“We were ready to throw in the towel, the ups and downs of the bar business are pretty harsh,” said Stango. “We just fought for it, we started booking more bands and we started doing better this year.”
Still behind on the rent, Stango said, Wind offered to forgive the debt in exchange for a 60 percent share of the business. When Stango refused, Wind pressed ahead with the eviction. Stango claims that he went to court to have the cost of the ruined equipment deducted from the rent bill and continued negotiations up until the 11th hour when he said he handed Wind $9,000 in cash only to have the money returned. Meanwhile, Stango claimed, Wind was reaching out to members of his team trying to recruit them to carry on the business once the eviction took place. (Wind, for his part, said he was more disturbed by the fact that the bar was not carrying insurance than the rent dispute).