Fussy Pussycat to Hungry Hotelier: Hands Off Old New York! Me-OW!

Speaking to The Observer last week, Mr. Kremer softened his rhetoric: “I don’t think it was his doing,” he said of Mr. Chang personally—rather, he suspects the hotelier’s subordinates.

“I think my client has better things to do with his time than that,” said Mr. Chang’s attorney, Frederick Park. “He’s an international businessman who travels around the world constantly. He certainly wouldn’t be troubling himself or anybody in his organization to call 311 on the Pussycat Lounge.”

Whatever the cause, the net effect of replacing raunchy shows in dark back rooms with well-appointed suites and flat-screen TVs might seem like a step-up in today’s shiny, tourist-friendly Manhattan.

Then again, who is Mr. Chang—the guy behind the fast-foodishly monikered McSam Hotel Group—to talk about aesthetics?

“They don’t even use real stone!” charged Mr. Kremer, referring to Mr. Chang and company’s typical architectural modus operandi.

Consider the company’s Comfort Inn building on West 39th Street with its exterior of insulated cladding, most often referred to by the brand-name Dryvit; the cookie-cutter material might as well be a four-letter word to old-school builders like Mr. Kremer, whose own career began in construction and who personally performed many renovations to the Pussycat Lounge.

He scoffed at the notion that a similar standardized structure could soon replace the turn-of-the-century terra cotta at nearby 50 Trinity Place, where a shuttered coffee shop sits dark as Mr. Chang revs up the bulldozer.

Mr. Kremer is determined to avoid becoming the hotelier’s next retail casualty. In lieu of his monthly $8,000 rent, he has been paying his lawyers, contesting Mr. Chang’s very purchase of the historic building that houses his club—not to mention his own home. (Mr. Kremer resides on the building’s fourth floor.)

His case amounts to what one detractor dismissed in court papers as “all sorts of far-fetched theories.”

Mr. Kremer has claimed the building’s sale to Mr. Chang for $3.5 million in 2005 violated his lease by not honoring his right of first refusal. Opposing lawyers contend that: (a) the sale was legit; (b) the lease in question is fraudulent; and (c) Mr. Kremer may have even operated without one for the past 30 years, court records show.

Moreover, Mr. Kremer claims that he actually co-owned the building alongside his longtime business partner, Walter Coletti, who died the summer before George Coletti, his brother and executor of the estate, sold it. (Mr. Kremer has countered that any subterfuge with the paperwork is the brother’s doing; the brother has denied any wrongdoing.)

Opposing lawyers further allege that there’s no documentary proof of Mr. Kremer’s ownership in the property, and even the bar owner himself has admitted that no such paperwork exists. The reason his name is missing is simple: “to avoid any claims being made against Pussycat Lounge Inc.,” according to court papers.

Mr. Kremer, it turns out, has dabbled in development himself, most infamously as part of a failed attempt to build luxury condos on the Long Beach waterfront. His real estate investments tanked in the wake of the 1987 stock market crash; hence, the debt-collector-dodging maneuver with the bookkeeping.