What do you do when you want to sue someone, but you can't find them?

Tape legal documents to their former place of business, and mail the notice.

Lawyers call it "nail and mail."

Multiple copies of a summons and an accompanying lawsuit have been attached, using heavy-duty clear tape rather than nails, to the doors of Trout's Nightclub in Oildale.

Named in the lawsuit as defendant is Allen Thomas Rockwell, the man who owned and operated Trout's for more than a decade before the country music honky-tonk appeared to have closed last month.

Rockwell hasn't responded to multiple inquiries about the fate of Trout's and its famous fish sign for several weeks.

"I guess you could say he's lying low," said Bakersfield attorney Fawn Dessy, who filed the complaint in Kern County Superior Court.

The plaintiff, Thurman Investments Inc., the new owner of the Trout's building, alleges in the lawsuit that Rockwell and his "agents, servants, employees, partners, principals, representatives and/or alter egos" are still "doing business in the premises," against the wishes of the new owner.

According to the complaint, Rockwell defaulted on the payment of a promissory note in March 2016 to the former owner of the building, Mortgage Lender Services.

The building at 805 N. Chester Ave. was sold at auction on May 9 to the current owner.

"At the time of the sale, the trustor, being defendant Rockwell, was in possession of the premises," the complaint says. And the new owner alleges that Rockwell continues to be in possession of the building, despite being served an eviction notice June 22.

"The reasonable rental value of the premises is at least the sum of $122 per day," the lawsuit states, "and the damages to plaintiff ... will continue to accrue at the rate so long as defendants remain in possession of the premises."

The Northern California investment group is also asking the court to award attorney's fees and other costs of the lawsuit.

Dessy, reached Friday afternoon, said, generally speaking, when someone has been foreclosed upon they are required to vacate the property.

The longtime attorney said she is fully aware of the interest many have in the eventual fate of the historic nightclub and its missing sign.

"It's such a big deal that Trout's was closed," Dessy said.

And while the missing sign is not mentioned specifically in the lawsuit, the owner of the building is taking this action to secure the property, and the sign is considered a "fixture" of the building, and is therefore the property of the new owner.

"It's just presumed that doors, light fixtures, cabinets and other fixtures are part of the real estate," Dessy said.

And what's next? The matter, Dessy said, will likely go to trial.

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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