Legal Daggers Drawn at the Spur

Owner of Southampton building wants co-working space evicted
Construction has stalled on the Spur’s planned flagship location in Southampton, and the building’s owner wants to kick the co-working space out for good. Taylor K. Vecsey

Bruce Lewin, the owner of 690 Hampton Road in Southampton Village — the building in which the Spur, a co-working space, is developing its flagship — is seeking to remove the company as a tenant. He said on Tuesday that Ashley John Heather, the Spur’s C.E.O., had breached a lease agreement in part because the site, at which construction has currently ceased, is unsafe and is not encompassed by a fence. Disputing that claim, Mr. Heather said that a village building inspector assured him that a fence is only required during active construction.

Mr. Lewin also accused Mr. Heather of misappropriating money from a $1 million loan. He said that shortly after he purchased the building for $4.5 million last May, he entered into a 25-year lease with the Spur. Since the space had previously been a car dealership and needed intensive renovation, Mr. Lewin said, he loaned the Spur $1 million for construction. “I was given 5 percent of the company as incentive,” he said.

As part of the loan agreement, according to Mr. Lewin, Mr. Heather was supposed to put “400 and some odd thousand dollars” into an escrow account for rent payment.

Mr. Lewin contends that instead of depositing the Spur’s money into escrow, Mr. Heather used money from Mr. Lewin’s loan. “He made a conscious effort to fool me,” Mr. Lewin said. “To lead me to believe they were paying me rent.”

Although Mr. Heather took issue with Mr. Lewin’s characterization of the financial maneuvering (“It’s a little bit more complicated than that,” he said), he did not dispute the underlying claim: “We use the funds that we have, to do what we need,” he said.

Mr. Heather is also being accused of not paying in full for the construction done on the Spur building (as well as on his house in Water Mill) by the DeVito and Company firm. Frank DeVito, the owner, said that he pulled out of both jobs in November when it became clear that payment would not be forthcoming.

Mr. DeVito, who said he intends to file suit for the money he is owed, said that he was particularly dismayed by Mr. Heather’s announcement on Feb. 13 that the Spur would be using company resources to develop a new location in East Hampton rather than paying off past-due bills. “Ashley’s been chasing money for years now,” Mr. DeVito said. “People are comparing him to the guy rom the Fyre Festival,” he said, referring to Billy McFarland, who in 2017 pulled an alleged bait and switch by selling tickets to an extravagant music event in the Bahamas that turned into a notorious fiasco.

Mr. Heather countered by saying that Mr. DeVito had been fired from the Spur project; he provided a termination letter to back up the claim. Mr. DeVito’s other allegations, said Mr. Heather, were simply “sour grapes.”

As for Mr. Lewin, Mr. Heather said he understood why he would be concerned by the delay in getting the Spur’s new space open for business, but he promised that Mr. Lewin would ultimately be rewarded for his investment. “I want to make sure he’s whole,” he said.

Mr. Heather said that Spur has no intention of giving up its lease on Mr. Lewin’s building. Kevin Mulry, Mr. Heather’s attorney, wrote in a Feb. 15 letter to Peter Guirguis, Mr. Lewin’s attorney, that none of Mr. Lewin’s claims against the Spur “would require a release of a security deposit or a surrender of the premises.”

Nevertheless, on Monday, Mr. Lewin said he was determined to remove his current tenant. “I want my property back, I want the lease ended, and I want my money back,” he said.