By Connor Adams Sheets
The L.A. Guns jamming live in Willets Point may seem like a strange dream for most people familiar with the district better known for its chop shops and stray dogs.
And it was exactly that for three Queens rockers — a dream that lasted only 12 days.
Bottoms Up, the “Rock Palace of Queens,” as proprietors Lisa “Tazz” Shelton of College Point, Charles Priola of Astoria and Paul “Vogue” Kenigsberg of Fresh Meadows, dubbed it, was a $750,000 labor of love that quickly turned into a nightmare.
They were on the way to creating a stellar music venue in the heart of Queens when they ran into problems getting a liquor license, which set off a series of setbacks that led to its premature shuttering.
“Everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” Kenigsberg said. A large neon Bottoms Up sign they ordered even arrived without bulbs.
The entrepreneurs said they poured their life savings and then some — borrowing large sums of money and maxing out their and their friends’ credit cards — into outfitting the 20,000-square-foot space above Parts Authority at 126-02 Northern Blvd. with a $50,000 sound system, $11,000 carpets and more only to be locked out months later by U.S. marshals and lose it all.
“We sold our souls for that place,” Shelton said. “I lost my car, my home, my credit, everything over this. And now we’re just fighting for our lives back.”
The trio signed a lease on the space in January 2006, and in February instructeda liquor license expediter to apply for a license. In June they finished construction and began to host dry shows since they still had no liquor license.
The expediter had not yet submitted their application when they went to him that month, they said, causing them to waste tens of thousands of dollars on rent, utilities and other payments while he dithered until finally submitting it in July.
The Parts Authority could not be reached for comment.
In August, they stopped having shows as the inability to sell alcohol left them “bleeding money,” according to Shelton. In October they found out the liquor license had been revoked from the previous tenant and it would take three months to get a new one.
So they stopped paying rent, telling Parts Authority they had been led on about the license, so they should not have to pay until they had a license in their hands. They said they were evicted shortly thereafter and lost a lawsuit against Parts Authority.
They have little means to recoup the money.
“I want to help the next person avoid the same situation,” Shelton said.
Despite the hard knocks, the hard rocking goes on. Shelton plans to open a new bar and restaurant called Seventh Gear soon in Astoria.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.