Portland restaurateur Kurt Huffman is in a legal battle with the heirs to the Hung Far Low building in the Chinatown neighborhood.
The building's rehab was a collaboration between Huffman and then-owner JoAnne Hong, who died in late 2016. Now Huffman is suing Hong's heirs and estate, saying they engaged in an elaborate scheme to oust Huffman and his business interests from the property by denying renovations and sneaking into the business after hours.
In 2009, Huffman teamed up with Pok Pok's Andy Ricker for the rejuvenation of the historic Chinatown landmark. The iconic sign saw a dramatic restoration, and the building below became home to Asian-fusion restaurant Ping.
After Ping's closure in 2013 and Ricker's departure from the project, Huffman and Hong continued to work together. Huffman used the space as a commissary for his Lardo locations, while eyeing a larger project: the opening of a nightclub and bar within the historic Hung Far Low building.
Fortune opened in 2015. According to Huffman, before her death Hong agreed to allow him to remove an interior wall, merging the two spaces Huffman had leased. By removing the adjoining wall, Huffman hoped Fortune could have a much larger maximum occupancy.
But after Hong's death in late 2017, the lawsuit claims, her estate had different plans.
Huffman alleges Hong's heirs—Debera Hong, Daniel Hong and Linda Ann Hong Hwee—conspired to hinder Huffman's plans for the space. First, Hong's heirs allegedly began to enter the property without permission, taking photos of alleged construction defects which could indicate Huffman was in violation of his lease, and serve as grounds for his eviction.
The lawsuit alleges the Hong heirs have entered the property without consent on at least 10 separate occasions, including one bizarre instance where Huffman claims Debera Hong was discovered sitting alone in the dark in the property's basement.
The lawsuit describes a fraught relationship between Huffman and the Hong heirs, with the heirs demanding alterations, including the restoration of the separating wall, but refusing to grant written consent for Huffman to actually perform the renovations.
These demands were allegedly so frequent and invasive that Fortune, which had temporarily closed, was forced to reopen four months later than previously scheduled.
Fortune re-opened to the public on Aug. 30. On the next day, Huffman reports he received an eviction notice from the Hong heirs.
Huffman and the HFL Project LLC are seeking $341,160 in damages, and an injunction preventing the Hong heirs from further interference in the Huffman/HFL Project LLC leases.
"We are fighting eviction but even once we win we will have less than half the occupancy that was planned," Huffman says. "In the bar world this effectively halves our income over the next 10 years of our lease."
Hong's heirs could not immediately be reached for comment.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the date of JoAnne Hong's death. WW regrets the error.