Boogie’s Diner closes, suit filed over commission

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
The Boogies Building, located at 534 E. Cooper Ave., is under contract to be sold for $27.5 million. Boogie's Diner has closed for good, but the clothing store will stay open. The building sale also is at the heart of a lawsuit that claims Aspen broker Shlomo Ben-Hamoo is being squeezed out of commission.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Boogie’s Diner has served its last meal. The corner building that’s housed the popular eatery is under contract to be sold for $27.5 million, and its owner is being sued for unpaid commission.

Late Wednesday, Aspen attorney Matt Ferguson, on behalf of Aspen property broker Shlomo Ben-Hamoo, filed suit against Boogie’s Building of Aspen LLC, which is controlled by Leonard “Boogie” Weinglass, in Pitkin County District Court.

The suit claims that Weinglass promised to pay Ben-Hamoo 2 percent commission when the sale of the building closes at the end of April. The suit seeks between $550,000 and $1.375 million in damages.

“We’re denying that there was ever such an agreement,” said Baltimore lawyer Ray Altman, attorney for Weinglass. “He was not acting as a broker for their building, and, to the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in writing.”

Ben-Hamoo declined comment Thursday, but Ferguson said Weinglass and Ben-Hamoo have known each other for 30 years and made a handshake agreement.

“In our view, we had a deal for $550,000,” Ferguson said. “If Boogie is going to say there wasn’t a deal for 2 percent, then he doesn’t have to agree to 2 percent. We’ll agree to the industry standard, which is 3 to 5 percent.”

According to the lawsuit, New York-based Thor High Street Advisors LLC entered into an agreement to buy the 534 E. Cooper Ave. building in January. Ben-Hamoo had arranged the sale, the suit alleges, and “Weinglass, on behalf of Boogie’s, acknowledged that Shlomo was a broker and that a commission would be paid if there was a deal with a buyer that Shlomo procured.”

Weinglass met with Thor High Street Advisors executive Bert Dweck on Jan. 9 over breakfast at The Little Nell Hotel, the suit says. Later that day, Weinglass showed Dweck and Ben-Hamoo the Boogie’s building. And that evening, Ben-Hamoo visited Weinglass at his condominium, where the two sat on the living-area couch and struck an agreement in which Ben-Hamoo would collect 2 percent on the sale of the building, the suit alleges.

“Given the longtime close and personal relationship between Shlomo and Weinglass, Shlomo accepted the 2 percent commission offered by Weinglass,” the suit says.

On Jan. 22, Thor offered $29 million for the building, but later “became concerned about Boogies’ and Weinglass’ square footage disclosures,” the suit says. “Shlomo persisted and kept the negotiation process moving forward.”

But soon after, Ben-Hamoo was pushed out of the deal, the suit says.

“Towards the end of successful negotiations, Weinglass and Dweck began to exclude Shlomo from the final negotiations for the sale of the property,” the suit says. “Weinglass abruptly told Shlomo not to contact Weinglass any more concerning the property. Weinglass had previously began to exhibit inexplicable personal animus towards Shlomo.”

The transaction price was reduced to $27.5 million, and the property is set to close at the end of April. Altman confirmed that the building is under contract.

Weinglass would not talk about the litigation, but confirmed through a text message that the diner is finished but the ground-level clothing store would remain open.

“Diner is closed the retail store is staying open,” he texted.

Dweck was out of his New York office and traveling Thursday. He did not immediately respond to an email inquiry seeking comment about his firm’s plans for the building. Thor is a major property-management firm that “has collectively signed over 5,000 leases,” its website says.

In 2013, Weinglass won Aspen City Council approval to build a third-story penthouse above the restaurant. That work has yet to begin, but there are vested rights for the development.

Weinglass opened the classic-style diner in 1987. When the building was erected, many naysayers deemed it the demise of Aspen — or, more pointedly, the “Boogificiation of Aspen” — thanks to its towering atrium in the heart of downtown Aspen.

But the affordable diner that has fed Bill Clinton and other celebrities as well as working-class locals became a hit and one of the longest-running restaurants in recent Aspen history.

The Boogie’s building has a total area of 12,499 square feet, according to the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office. It also includes one deed-restricted employee housing unit.