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Jacksonville Barber Shop can retain location

Jacksonville Barber Shop, the town’s oldest business, can remain in its present location after a Jackson County Circuit Court judge ruled Friday in an eviction trial brought by landlord Warren Masonic Lodge against shop operator Ed McBee.

The parties will need to agree on a lease rate.

Judge Benjamin Bloom found that a 2012 lease for the premises was valid even though a signed copy could not be located. Because the contract is valid, the lodge’s call for McBee to vacate by Oct. 31 was invalid, the judge ruled. McBee has continued to occupy the shop since that date.

“It’s as good as I could expect. It’s not a life-changing thing like it would have been if I had lost,” McBee said after the ruling. “I don’t have any ill feelings toward them.”

Bloom said the parties should follow through with terms of the lease, which calls for determining the amount of rent in exercising a five-year option to extend the lease. That could be through negotiations or, if those fail, the lodge can name three appraisers, one of whom McBee would select to determine a fair rental rate under terms of the 2012 lease.

Jacksonville Barber Shop dates from a least 1881 at its current location. It later moved but returned to the same spot in 1960. McBee bought the business in 2002. He wants to maintain it as an example of an old-fashioned barbershop as well as an active business.

The lodge has two other tenants in the bottom floor of the building at Oregon and California streets.

McBee has been paying $430 per month under the 2012 lease. Discussions between the two parties in July appeared to arrive at a $600 rate with a $25 increase each succeeding year.

The barber testified he thought he had an agreement for that rate but didn’t hear from the lodge until early August, when they asked to see a copy of the lease because they could not locate one. McBee’s copy had only his signature.

McBee heard nothing more until he received a Sept. 15 letter stating he was to leave by Oct. 31 and that he was on a month-to-month basis because no signed lease could be located.

“I believe the parties were negotiating in good faith and things ended up slipping away,” said Bloom.

Former lodge secretaries Art Borland and Josh Nelson testified they had seen copies of the 2012 lease signed by both parties in lodge files. Borland had been involved in negotiation of the 2012 lease. Nelson said he came across the signed document in 2015 when he was directed by the lodge’s master to review all rental agreements.

The lodge submitted into the record more than 80 pages that were minutes of all meetings held in 2012. They contained no reference to the lease with McBee. Several lodge officials testified that the normal procedure would have brought the issue back to members for approval. But Borland said the 2012 agreement was negotiated by a lodge building board.

“I knew there was some mishandling of items in the lodge," lodge member Steve Larranze said when questioned about lodge business by McBee's attorney Jeffrey Foxx. Larranze said it had been discovered last year that some records were missing.

Eugene Anderson, attorney for the lodge, said he couldn’t disclose what he told his clients following the decision, citing attorney-client privilege. But he did generalize.

“In most cases my advice to my clients is to talk to the people on the other side and see if we can get a resolution,” said Anderson. He noted the judge determined there had not been a meeting of the minds on the lease rate, which still needs to be resolved.

After the verdict McBee shook hands with Larranze and James Westerfield, current lodge treasurer, who had testified. But lodge member Jim Preston, who also testified, declined to shake hands.

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Ed McBee opens his Jacksonville Barber Shop on a fall morning. A judge ruled Friday McBee has a valid lease and will not have to vacate the premises. [Mail Tribune / file photo]