The Business Formerly known as: Uptown Grand changes its name to Panache

It first appeared on the uptown scene as a high-end seafood restaurant named Pier 2110.  It later found new life when Joe Holland resurrected it as Gospel Uptown. A few months later the name was changed to Uptown Grand. Now in yet another twist of fate, it is Panache Supper Club.

What’s going on?  Well, Holland and his family are embattled in nasty law suit by one of their investors. While it hasn’t been publicized that the troubled business has (once again) changed its name, the sign out front sends the message loud and clear. Scaffolding covers the front of the building and a black and white sign hangs out front. The gift shop inside still displays t-shirts and coffee mugs with the orange logo of its past life. The outside signs, now covered by multicolored plywood, also deny it of its new identity.

Online investigations offered no clues as to why the owners decided to suddenly change the name of what was thought to be a thriving entertainment destination in Harlem. Under its original inception as Gospel Uptown it even caught the attention of CNN’s golden boy, Anderson Cooper (watch video). Gospel Uptown is still a live website, as is Uptown Grand. The Facebook page still lists the restaurant as Uptown Grand, but it sports the Panache Supper Club logo.

Are you as confused as we are?  What’s going on over there Uptown Grand/Panache Supper Club?  What has your experience been at any of the past entities? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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6 thoughts on “The Business Formerly known as: Uptown Grand changes its name to Panache

  1. Clearly Uptown flavor is NOT reading the Harlem’s own Amsterdam News…very sad. This was on the front page of the newspaper a couple of weeks ago and on their website .

    Harlem Rumble

    Cyril Josh Barker
    Amsterdam News Staff

    Controversy is swirling uptown and at the center of it is a landmark restaurant, and as the situation seems to spin out of control it seems to echo a story line from a Law and Order episode as money, drugs and gangsters seem to be part of the back drop.

    But this is not Law and Order– it is a real life drama that has brought forth damaging allegations towards a well known Harlem business owner, and may be putting lives at risk.

    At the center of the dispute is Joseph Holland– an ordained minister, a Republican appointed former New York State Housing Commissioner, Harlem real estate dealmaker and Restaurateur. Holland has been a principal partner in Uptown Grand (formerly Gospel Uptown), and Harlem Real Estate Broker and former impresario of the controversial Harlem Club– a club which brought together high earning Wall Street Black men with eligible young women of color. Articles on his former club have appeared in the New York Times, and he was featured in Essence Magazine, and on CNN.

    The two men have been in an ongoing conflict over a $50,000 loan that Lopez-Pierre gave to Holland in May 2010 in order to save Uptown Grand which was about to go under. Lopez has called in the loan, saying it was a real estate secured loan and the real estate was being sold, but Holland claims that he has two years to pay Lopez-Pierre back according to the terms of their original agreement..

    And while from the outside, the situation would appear to seem just like another Harlem deal gone bad there is much more at state than just money here. According to Lopez-Pierre the money that he loaned Holland is linked to “Dominican hard money lenders” in Washington Heights, who essentially are operating like loan sharks. Lopez-Pierre says that if these lenders– which he has acted as a middle man between himself and Holland, could take aggressive action against himself or Holland, and their actions could mean continued life or death for both.

    The AmNews interviewed both Lopez-Pierre and Holland about the dispute which has produced dozens of emails sent by Lopez-Pierre, and a public relations campaign by Holland over the internet that has reached thousands of people over the last over the last couple of months and has been the talk of a segment of the New York Black community from people in their 20s to their 60s.

    Lopez -Pierre is blunt and unapologetic in his position. “Joe Holland is a crook, a liar and false prophet,” Lopez-Pierre said. “The one thing I know for a fact is that Joe Holland is going to return the $50,000 to the Dominicans. The question is how much will it cost to get it returned?”

    Holland said that he’s “terribly offended” by Lopez-Pierre and the aggressive tactics to get the money returned. He says Lopez-Pierre tactics are nothing more than a smear campaign and an attempt to extort money from him, and he is now in fear for the safety of himself and family. Holland is married, and has three children. He is also an active member of Harlem’s Bethel Gospel Assembly Church, and is well known for the real estate deal he put together for the church that combined using church property to build a combination Church/luxury residential units on its Fifth Avenue and 120th street location.

    Holland says that Lopez-Pierre is misrepresenting their deal “I think being afraid is putting in mildly.
    [Lopez-Pierre] has twisted the truth and made is seem like I have this debt with Dominican hard money lenders. It’s total falsehood,” Holland said.

    Holland and Lopez-Pierre met in April 2010 when Holland’s sister and business partner, Lucy Holland-Harden, and her husband, Robert Harden, hired Lopez-Pierre to rent out their 141st St. Harlem brownstone. Holland-Harden told Lopez-Pierre that she and Holland were looking for investors for Uptown Grand, which was already struggling. Holland said that he looked at other possible investors to help the business including the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and Carver Bank but he couldn’t close a deal.

    “Uptown Grand was launched in 2009 during the recession and the business had financial problems which we have been working through,” said Holland. “We put together an investment document and we were active in seeking potential investors from acquaintances, family members and colleagues.”

    In order to save the restaurant, Lopez-Pierre said that he informed Holland that he had “Dominican associates” in Washington Heights that could loan him $50,000. Lopez-Pierre admits that the Dominicans likely made their money through the drug trade and that he serves as their broker.

    “Think of it as an insurance salesman,” he said. “I have access to a lot of people who will lend hard money for certain deals. Due to Joe’s incompetent business management that was the only way.”

    Lopez-Pierre describes the process similar to “ordering a pizza” where large sums of money were dropped in a car or picked up in garbage bags and transported to the receiver. But he also relates the dark side of doing such deals. “The Dominicans failure rate on their payback is only five percent. Ninety-five percent of loans are paid. If you don’t pay them they will kill you.”

    On May 1, 2010 an investment contract was drawn up explaining the conditions of the loan. The contract obtained by the AmNews indicates that the $50,000 loan was coming from Lopez-Pierre Realty LLC and no other sources outlining 14 provisions. One of the provisions indicates that Holland’s company has two years to pay the loan back and that Lopez-Pierre would receive 2% ownership in Uptown Grand.

    But Holland claims that Lopez-Pierre was not completely honest with him when he lent the money.
    “When he made the investment he represented that it was his own money,” Holland said. “He made no mention of anybody else. No mention of Dominicans or hard money lenders. This is reflected in the agreement where the only entity is Thomas Lopez-Pierre.”

    Holland added that Lopez-Pierre told him that he got the $50,000 from money he made in real estate having a couple of good years closing some big deals and that now he wanted to invest.

    Lopez-Pierre tells a different tale saying Holland new every detail about the Dominican lenders. He says that he has never misrepresented his own personal finances, and that his average annual income is only $40,000, and he lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his wife and three children and could not produce such a large amount of money so quickly.

    “He knew from day one that I had associates in Washington Heights that could loan him the money. He knew what the deal was ,” Lopez-Pierre said.

    However, according to Lopez-Pierre, the $50,000 was not the only loan Holland asked for. Lopez-Pierre said that Holland asked for an additional $12,000 to pay his mortgage on his tony Harlem brownstone and his children’s private school tuition. Lopez-Pierre presented a document to the AmNews he said was written by Holland outlining payments to that loan.

    Holland denies ever taking more than $50,000.

    Lopez-Pierre said that while the original investment agreement contract does outline that Holland’s company has two years to pay back the $50,000 loan another provision states that two liens were filed by Lopez-Pierre secured by two properties, a brownstone owned by Holland on Lennox Ave and a condo owned by Holland-Harden and her husband Robert.

    The contract also states that no additional debt could be placed on the condo and brownstone without prior written consent and that it was required to return the $50,000 once one of the properties were sold. Lopez-Pierre said that the brownstone was sold since the contract was signed for $1.1 million and that he has not received any of the money.

    After Lopez-Pierre and Holland had made their original loan deal, Holland also hired Lopez to help manage the night life at Uptown Grand during night hours for the establishment. Holland said that Lopez-Pierre worked there only six weeks before being let go for what he called “obnoxious behavior” toward customers. However, Lopez-Pierre said that while he did work there as a paid employee for six weeks, he stayed on as an interested investor and was up at the restaurant/night spot several times a week, and worked steer events toward the venue.

    During that time, Lopez-Pierre said that he observed illegal activities going on at Uptown Grand including underage drinking, drug sales and use, fire code violations and a number of fights. While planning events for clients who wanted to use Uptown Grand, he said Holland– who is an ordained conservative minister, didn’t allow any homosexual events and referred to people as “hoodrats.”

    Lopez-Pierre also accuses Holland of not reporting liquor sales on taxes and violating liquor license laws which require that receipts of alcohol are provided for all purchases. Lopez-Pierre’s allegations also include that several employees at Uptown Grand were not paid including one currently suing Holland in civil court. A final and explosive allegation by Lopez-Pierre is about overhearing a conversation between Holland and a former employee where he asked her to abort a baby that she claimed he had fathered. Holland denied the last charge, Lopez-Pierre claims he has access to the conversation on tape.

    Lopez gives a simple explanation for his outspoken tactics in the case. “Joe thinks he’s special,” Lopez-Pierre said. “People need to know who this man is. My aim is to publicly inform the community.”

    In his interview with the AmNews Holland denied all of Lopez-Pierre’s allegations about any shenanigans going on at Uptown Harlem, recalling only a few times that police were called to his venue over typical incidents for any nightclub. As far as drug use: Holland said anyone seen using drugs was immediately escorted out. Holland firmly stated that any affair with an employee is false.

    Holland said, “It’s so outrageous to make allegations and have no basis for it at all for it. He talked to someone that has a tape [and] not only did I not have an affair with an employee but there was never a discussion with an employee about an abortion and a cover up.”

    On Nov. 26, 2010 Lopez-Pierre, Holland, Holland-Harden and Harden had a meeting in which Lopez-Pierre alleges he was told that Holland was selling the company and wanted to buy him out. Holland alleges that at the meeting Lopez-Pierre demanded the $50,000 and was then informed for the first time that the Lopez-Pierre’s money came from Dominican hard money lenders.

    In the days following the meeting Lopez-Pierre began his internet barrage sending out a series of emails that he says went to 50,000 people chronicling the events as they unfolded from his perspective. Reports of the emails came to the attention of the Amsterdam News editorial staff and employees, and the age range of discussion included twenty-something’s to sixty-something’s. Lopez-Pierre kept no details secret in his accounting of the events including the involvement of the Dominicans. He also warned people not to invest with Holland.

    Holland brought the emails to the attention of the Manhattan D.A. who has been monitoring the situation, and has contacted Lopez-Pierre three times, according to Lopez-Pierre. Holland also went to the NYPD.

    An emailed sent out on Feb. 14, by Lopez Pierre titled: “I killed Joesph Holland At His Church, Bethel Gospel Assembly (In My Dream)” prompted the D.A.’s Office to arrest Lopez-Pierre the next day. He was placed in central booking for 24 hours and made bail. He was charged with two counts of third degree stalking and six counts of second degree aggravated assault. Lopez-Pierre believes that Holland’s political connections made way for his arrest.

    Holland denies having any connections with the Manhattan D.A.’s office or the NYPD stating that he feared for him and his family’s life. Holland and his family are currently suing Lopez-Pierre for $1 million for defamation, harassment and intentional infliction of emotional harm. Holland has filed a temporary order of protection against Lopez-Pierre.

    Lopez-Pierre is suing Holland for fraud. Both appeared in court this week concerning the arrest.

    • Not to one up anyone but we broke the story BEFORE the Amsterdam. We don’t harvest our stories from the Amsterdam since it is only published once a week. We were already on it and had been following it for a while.

  2. Thought I personally enjoyed Gospel Uptown, the owners never did anything to promote a following. They never made their prices reasonable for the folks in the neighborhood. I also think the whole Gospel thing was ill considered. I remember seeing a family of four sit there (during Holland ownership tenure) take one look at the menu and walk right out again. They also never gave out flyers on the street for their events and never put out a sidewalk chalkboard with the times of their happy hour written on it.

    These new guys are probably going to fail just as hard as the last guys did.

    It’s a shame too as GU is a beautiful space.

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