After another busy weekend on the border of Cleveland and Lakewood, the operators of Clifton Martini & Wine Bar spent Oct. 18 cleaning, clearing equipment, sharing memories and turning away unaware regulars at its Clifton Boulevard location.
The bar, which would have celebrated its 12th anniversary in February, is now officially closed. Owner Jeff Rumplik and bar manager Jeremy Bloom cited disputes with the landlord of the building at 10427 Clifton Boulevard, Wilshire Management.
“It wasn’t a lack of business, and it wasn’t the pandemic. We were open the whole time, and we weren’t shut down for anything. We were going to renew our lease for another five years,” Bloom says. “But he made our life a living hell for the past four years. We’ve been dealing with hurdle after hurdle, and we just decided enough was enough.”
The tenants say the building owner would incorrectly report the business for COVID violations, such as mask violations and curfew, harass delivery workers dropping off supplies, and attempt to jack up rent unexpectedly. Even as the business cleaned out its space, the landlord called the police and claimed the business was stealing from the building, says Bloom.
“This is very last-minute advice from our attorney," says Rumplik. "We persevered through the entire pandemic, but it’s just been so much stress, and we can’t do this for another five years.”
Wilshire Managements, however, tells a different story. Owner John Romaniw, who took over the space nearly four years ago, cites health code violations, property damage and unruly customers and employees. He also claims that the business stole equipment owned by the building. A lawsuit is ongoing.
"The place is in shambles, and he is an absentee owner," says Romaniw. “They have been nothing but a blight on my building for years. The neighboring tenants, when they heard the news, congratulated me. I'm ecstatic that they're leaving. The space is dynamite, and there are so many restaurants interested in going there."
Clifton Martini & Wine Bar served an expansive wine list, craft cocktails and a food menu of small plates and entrees.
Rumplik, who wore his sadness on his face as he struggled to share the news, also owns Village Martini & Wine in Chagrin Falls and is the former owner of The Fairmount. He said he’s unsure of whether he’ll attempt to open another space in the Lakewood area and for now must focus on his other business and regroup.
“We had a strong customer base in the neighborhood for years,” says Bloom. “I’ve lived here for 23 years. It was like Cheers. We knew everybody on a first name basis. It’s a neighborhood staple. A regular came by at 4:15 p.m., and he had to walk away when he found out because he was shedding tears."