Anti-Zionist cider bar owner claims ‘abuse’ as he faces eviction from Gateway

Landlords claim Weathered Waves failed to pay rent. Owner Michael Valentine says it’s personal.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City's Weathered Waves bar is facing eviction for failing to pay rent and other lease violations, according to a complaint filed May 13.

Weathered Waves, the small cider bar owned by former Salt Lake City mayoral candidate Michael Valentine, might soon be kicked out of its home in The Gateway.

Valentine and his cidery became the subjects of attention and an investigation from the state’s Attorney General office in March after the bar posted a “No Zionists Allowed” decree on Instagram. The investigation found no evidence of discrimination, but staff attorney Amanda Montague “strongly urge[d]” Valentine to “reconsider your statement that you will not serve individuals expressing certain beliefs,” according to a letter sent to the bar in April.

It’s not the political statement that concerns property owner Vestar Gateway, though. It’s the overdue rent and lease violations, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in the Third Judicial Court of Salt Lake County. Vestar claims Valentine owes $2,695.93 for one month of unpaid rent, plus interest and attorney’s fees.

The complaint also alleges Valentine violated several terms of the lease by selling beer without authorization — the lease only permits Valentine to sell retail cider and “cider themed deserts and coffee,” according to the complaint — and changing the bar’s name without Vestar’s approval. Valentine changed the name from Six Sailor Cider, the cider’s brand name, to Weathered Waves in January in anticipation of becoming a licensed bar. The business got its bar license on Feb. 29, and that license is still active.

Valentine told The Tribune on Friday that he is up to date on rent payments. In an email, Valentine sent a photocopy of a cashier’s check made to Vestar for $2,195.93, the equivalent of one month’s rent, dated May 14. The complaint was filed May 13.

Valentine also said he had a “verbal agreement” with Vestar to change the bar’s name. The parties were working on a lease amendment that would allow Valentine to sell beer and update the bar’s food menu, Valentine said, but the amendment included provisions Valentine said violated his “free speech rights,” including a non-disparagement clause, and he refused to sign it.

The complaint says Vestar served Valentine a three-day notice to pay or vacate May 7; Valentine claims he never got it.

Valentine said he plans to file a countersuit, citing alleged lease violations on Vestar’s behalf. In a phone call Friday, Valentine said the whole ordeal is a direct, personal attack, and he accused Vestar of being “abusive” to him and other tenants.

Vestar’s attorney did not immediately respond to The Tribune’s request for comment Friday.

Earlier this month, Valentine was arrested twice — in two days — in connection to pro-Palestine protests, led largely by students, on the University of Utah campus. Arrest records cite “theft” as the charge for his first arrest — Valentine claims on Instagram that cops came to his house to arrest him after he took city signs from a protest site. He was arrested again the following day for failure to disperse, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct, according to arrest records.

Shannon Sollitt is a Report for America corps member covering business accountability and sustainability for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.