Washington Ave’s 360 Sports Lounge: The Oil-Trading Kickback Connection

Last Friday, a former St. Anne’s Catholic School P.E. teacher named Jonathan Barnes pled guilty to 4 counts of federal charges in connection with a multimillion-dollar oil-trading kickback scheme. What does the Bellaire resident have to do with the 360 Sports Lounge on Washington Ave? The plea agreement he signed last week spells it out: His investment in the bar was a kickback itself, one of many gifts given to him by his 2 alleged co-conspirators, to thank him for overcharging his employer, Houston Refining (now a part of LyondellBasell) by as much as $82 million for shipping contracts he arranged with their companies.

Why might Barnes have figured that a new Washington Ave sports bar would be a good investment? Well, his stint at Enron in the early 1990s had given him a solid business background.


That’s where Barnes first met Clyde Meltzer, then an employee of the commodity trading company Glencore, and where the two had, according to the plea agreement, “entered into a similar kickback arrangement.” The Chronicle‘s Tom Fowler notes that “That arrangement funneled thousands of dollars to Barnes over several years, even after he left Enron, according to court testimony and documents. The payments were even part of Barnes’ 1994 divorce settlement with his wife, which stipulated that the couple would split payments from a former Enron official 60-40. Barnes and his wife later reconciled and remarried.”

Barnes might also have sensed that an investment in the 360 Sports Lounge would be a good idea because — according to the plea agreement — the bar’s co-owners were the same people who were giving him the kickbacks in the first place: Meltzer and his partner, Bernard Langley. (The mixed-use building the bar is in, at 4601 Washington Ave., was the runner-up for the Washington Ave Award in last year’s Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate.) Barnes is continuing to cooperate with prosecutors who are building a case against Meltzer and Langley; their trial is scheduled to begin in May.

Back in January, Swamplot provided a tour of another real-estate investment Barnes was involved in: the 4,096-sq.-ft. home in Wynden Oaks the feds claim he used kickback money to buy as a gift for Randy and Leslie Tyler Fink.

Photos: Candace Garcia (4601 Washington Ave), Active Diner (storefront), 360 Sports Lounge (interior)

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