The tables may have turned in the China Live restaurant-landlord dispute, as now it's Wells Fargo suing the landlord who’d previously sued China Live over unpaid rent, and the bank is threatening to foreclose.

George Chen’s upscale food court China Live was supposed to reinvigorate Chinatown when it opened in 2017, and in many ways it did — up until the pandemic hit. But we learned about a year ago that the landlord Cypress Properties was suing Chen and China Live for $4.2 million in unpaid back rent. That lawsuit was settled this past January, but it sure seemed an odd power struggle was afoot between Chen and Cypress Properties, with more at stake than just back rent.

Indeed, there is more at stake. On Tuesday, the San Francisco Business Times reported that Cypress Properties’ lender Wells Fargo was suing Cypress Properties over a reportedly delinquent $21.2 million mortgage. Wells Fargo claims they are now owed $30.5 million with the interest that has accrued. The lawsuit claims that Cypress Properties’ affiliate 644 Broadway LLC has not made payments since November 2022.  

Significantly, China Live is responsible for about 75% of the building’s rent. And from a quote the Business Times pulls from the lawsuit, it sounds like Cypress Properties’ other investors may be spooked by, well, all the lawsuits that have been happening that involve the property.

The Business Times quotes the lawsuit as saying “Only recently (within the past few weeks), Borrower informed Plaintiff that Borrower’s investors will not invest additional capital, including to pay Borrower’s counsel for past due legal fees in the (Unlawful Detainer) Action and the Civil Action, and for future legal fees in the Civil Action, which is scheduled for trial in August, 2024."

Meanwhile, George Chen seems to be watching these developments from a safe distance. He told the Business Times that if the building is foreclosed, he’d be willing to step in and buy the property at a “fair market price,” while also indicating he could take his food hall concept elsewhere.

“We already have [letters of intent] out for new locations as I’m paying more than double market rent at Broadway and [it] doesn’t make sense for long term,” Chen told the Business Times.

The 644 Broadway building is also home to the Boxcar Theatre of The Speakeasy fame, six other retail tenants, and nine low-income residential apartment units.

Related: Chinatown Food Hall China Live Hit With Eviction Lawsuit, Allegedly Owes $4.2 Million In Back Rent [SFNews]

Image: Janelle Q. via Yelp