Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Alderwoman Marlene Davis Explains Her 2010 Bankruptcy

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Alderwoman's jazz club hit a flat note.
  • Alderwoman's jazz club hit a flat note.
Alderwoman Marlene Davis says she was a casualty of the recession.

In July 2007, three months after winning the election for the 19th Ward seat, Davis bought the popular Central West End jazz club Gene Lynn's. Davis tells Daily RFT she always dreamed of owning a business and saw the opportunity as a way to build some savings before retirement.

Then the economy collapsed.

People stopped spending money at jazz clubs. Gene Lynn's didn't turn the profits she'd hoped. The bills began to mount and Davis says her $32,000 salary as a full-time alderwoman couldn't begin to pay them. By August 2008 her landlord, THF Lindell Marketplace LP, was suing her lack of payment on the $3800-per-month rent. She says she tried to sell the club. No one was interested.

In December 2008, Davis closed down Gene Lynn's. Three months later, a judge ordered her to pay Lindell Marketplace $24,000 in $300 monthly increments. After a few of months of struggling to meet all her payments, she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

"It was pretty devastating for me," says Davis. "I struggled with that place for more than a year. It didn't get any better. It just got worse. Sometimes you want something so badly that you keep trying to do it even though it's getting harder and harder to make it work."

The bankruptcy remained largely unnoticed until blogger Steve Patterson wrote a post yesterday presenting the details of the filing.

According to the bankruptcy documents, Davis held nearly $120,000 in liabilities, including around $17,000 in back taxes stemming from the jazz club, as well as the $25,506 she owed to Lindell Marketplace. In the time since the bankruptcy, she says her finance are gradually recovering.

Davis now acknowledges that buying Gene Lynn's was a mistake.

"At that moment, I was looking at the history of that particular establishment and where it was located," she says,"not knowing that everything that I've ever known about economics and this town would all change. It changed all over the world. Nothing was the same after those next two years."

The fiscal blemishes are particularly biting for Davis, who often cites her experience in development when defending certain bills, such as the infamous Del Taco building tax abatement proposal. She's been on the Board of Aldermen during this whole episode, at one point serving a stint on the board's financial Ways and Means Committee.

But for anyone who uses her struggles as a small business owner to questions her judgement on the board, Davis is quick to distinguish between the two roles.

"My decisions that are related to the Board of Aldermen have nothing to do with me and my personal life and my unfortunate situation with trying to run a small business. Those two things have nothing to do with each other," she says. "I am not the only person who has had financial problems. In the last few years most especially, probably not even the only person who has been in government and filed for bankruptcy."

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