WILMINGTON — On Tuesday night, employees of the Blue Eyed Muse were notified they were out of a job — the venue was closing immediately.
On Wednesday, Damian Brezinski, owner of the Blue Eyed Muse, confirmed that he had paid for a private inspection of the building he rents at 208 Market St. The result of that inspection, though not an official finding, made it impossible to stay open “in good conscience,” Brezinski said.
Friday morning, inspectors from the New Hanover County Building Safety Department ruled the building unsafe.
There’s no question the building is in poor shape, but how did the issues get so bad?
There are two stories about what happened at the Blue Eyed Muse, one told by Joseph Hou – who owns the building – and one told by Damian Brezinski – the tenant and operator of the venue.
According to Joseph Hou, property owner
According to Hou, when Brezinski took over the venue from David M. Powell, who went by Finley Powell, there was an outstanding bill for $6,000. The bill was for HVAC units installed in the building; Hou said he told Brezinski about the outstanding balance before he took ownership, but that Brezinski agreed to pay.
According to Hou, Brezinski never paid, and contractors are currently refusing to do any further heating and cooling work on the building. According to the private inspection report of the building, five of the nine HVAC units are currently broken.
Brezinski was also supposed to put the CFPUA bill in his own name, but never did. Over the summer, Hou said the water was actually shut off for non-payment. Hou said manager Lawrence Sharpe called him.
“He told me Brezinski was out of town. They owed $1,000, and they had a big show that night. And no water. Lawrence told me, ‘please, bail us out.’ So I paid, out of my pocket,” Hou said.
According to Hou, Brezinski still hasn’t paid his water bill. Hou said he received a bill Friday for $2,120.47.
Hou also said Brezinski was several months behind on his rent.
“Since June, no rent. So there’s the money for the AC, there’s the money for the water bill, there’s rent. I don’t know what to do,” Hou said.
Hou said Brezinski took responsibility for the upkeep of the building when he signed the lease, but also said Brezinski had never notified him of any issues.
“When you start a business, you go and you walk around and you look at everything, right? That’s what you do,” Hou said. “He never told me anything was wrong, never called me or texted me. I told him, ‘Damian, you have to tell me.’”
Hou said many of the issues cited by Brezinski’s inspection are new to him.
“I told him, Damian, ‘something is wrong. Someone is messing around here.’ What did he do, to cause all this damage in eight months?”
According to Hou, the first he heard of structural issues at the Blue Eyed Muse was on Wednesday.
According to Damian Brezinski, tenant and owner of the Blue Eyed Muse
Brezinski categorically denied being in arrears.
“No, we are absolutely paid up. All our bills are paid, all our contracts are settled or are in the process of being settled,” Brezinski said.
He added that some late payments had been due to a “glitch in the transfer of funds,” that has since been rectified.
As for the damage to the building, Brezinski said he knew the building was “beat up” when he took over the venue in January, but that the issues were less severe — and hopefully repairable.
“Why did I get into it, knowing the building was old? Yes, we knew it was in rough shape, it’s an old building. But we hoped we could work together with the property owner to repair those issues. We approached the owner earnestly, and repeatedly, but nothing came of it. Ultimately we got to the point this week were there was nothing else to do,” Brezinski said.
Over time, new issues cropped up but the breaking point, Brezinski said, was “several inches of sewage coming up out of the drains in the mosh pit” discovered one morning last week — one of the reasons given by the county for labeling the building “unsafe” Friday morning.
The private inspection report “shocked us all,” Brezinksi said, “and it forced us to do the very sad thing and close down.”
Brezinski added that financial issues played no role in the closing.
“I’m very disappointed to hear anyone suggest that this is a money issue and not a safety issue,” Brezinski said. “I’m paying out of my own pocket to secure guarantees for these bands, including the Toadies, to stay here in town. We put our heart, soul – and wallets – into this. And I feel today’s inspection vindicated the choice I made.”
The details of Building Safety Department official report will be available next week, according to Jessica Loeper, spokeswoman for the county. No word yet on what the fate of the building will be.
Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at firstname.lastname@example.org, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.