Nightmarish Family Drama At 12 Steps Down

About a week ago, someone called our attention to a curious message that appears on the website for 12 Steps Down, the smoky neighborhood bar at the corner of 9th and Christian streets: As for the 12 Steps Down facebook page that was stolen by one 50% owner, from the 50% owner who created it, and posted most of it’s content until it was, I would treat it’s accuracy, and what is posted on it, with that in mind… WORD TO THE WISE… DON’T EVER MAKE ANYONE ELSE ONE OF THE ADMINISTRATORS OF YOUR FACEBOOK BUSINESS PAGES…

Uh oh. Sounds like trouble.

The author of that message (one which also includes an offer to sell 50 percent of the business for $250,000), is Fred Renzulli, who bought 12 Steps Down back in 2002 with his younger sister, Danielle Renzulli. (Technically, it’s Fred’s wife that owns his shares because, as Fred explains it, a previous drug conviction precluded him from getting a liquor license expeditiously.)

Meanwhile, there’s this post on the bar’s Facebook page, presumably controlled by Danielle: “The domain 12stepsdown.com no longer has up-to-date or accurate info about 12 Steps Down Bar at 9th & Christian. Please access the link above to be in the know or right here on Facebook. Thank you, 12 Steps Down Management”.

Both Fred and Danielle bartended at Kathleen’s, the predecessor to 12 Steps, and decided to give the saloon business a try when that bar’s namesake couldn’t swing it. But according to Fred, their relationship soured pretty quickly after forming the business, he says because of a disagreement over how much time and energy Danielle was (or wasn’t) putting into the business. Danielle doesn’t say anything; she chose not to comment.

On December 31, 2010, Danielle accused Fred of assaulting her at the bar and later obtained a protection from abuse order preventing him from going there for a period of three years. Fred denies ever hitting his sister. He is also prohibited from contacting or harassing Danielle.

In April, Fred and his wife, Kristin, filed a lawsuit against Danielle, seeking money they claim the business owes them and calling for the dissolution of 12 Steps Down, LLC and the equitable distribution of assets among the shareholders. In August, Kristin Renzulli went to 12 Steps Down and removed the liquor license from the wall, leading a judge to order her to return it and to stay away from the bar until further notice.

I asked Fred Renzulli what his mother thinks of all this fighting between her children. His response? “Oh, her… She’s suing me,” he replied matter-of-factly. In March, Geraldine Renzulli sued son Fred over a property he owns on Passyunk Avenue. Geraldine is also part of the 12 Steps dispute. According to the lawsuit, Geraldine has served as the bar’s bookkeeper over the years, and Fred and Kirstin have a lot of questions about those books. Fred says that Danielle has their mom under her thumb because… well, let’s just say that, according to Fred, Danielle has some dirt on their mom that would be more appropriately aired on the Jerry Springer Show.

“I just want out of this,” says Fred. “I just want to get on with my life.”

Good luck, Fred. The next chapter in this saga comes this Thursday, when Fred must go before a Family Court judge for allegedly violating the protection from abuse order. Danielle claims that Fred indirectly harassed her via his statements on the bar’s website. If the judge agrees with Danielle, Fred could find himself in jail before the weekend.

Kinda gives you that warm, holiday feeling, eh?

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