High-powered Hartford law firm wins a court judgment against Allie Gamble, owner of Tisane and a former client.

Allie Gamble, a well-known Hartford restauranteur who owns the Half-Door Pub and Tisane Tea and Coffee Bar, owes his former lawyers at Updike Kelly & Spellacy over $17,000, according to court documents.The law firm sued Gamble in Hartford Superior Court earlier this year in an effort to collect the debt. Last month, Judge Vanessa L. Bryant entered a default judgment against Gamble, which requires him to make weekly $35 payments beginning May 30.Contacted Monday, Gamble says the legal action is rooted in a dispute over which entity should receive the firm’s bills. Apparently the firm began billing Gamble personally, where in the past they always billed his corporations, he says. When he called to fix the situation, the firm bounced him around to different departments, Gamble says, and he could never resolve the issue. “It’s a big firm. You don’t deal with the same person all the time,” he explains. Gamble’s lawyer at Updike was John Kennelly, a former Hartford city councilman and grandson of John Bailey, the longtime boss of Connecticut’s Democratic Party. When Gamble signed on with the firm, Updike reduced its customary $5,000 retainer to $2,000, as a “courtesy” because of Gamble and Kennelly’s “long-standing relationship,” according to a professional engagement letter the firm sent to Gamble. However, when Kennelly left Updike to start his own firm last year,  he took Gamble’s business with him. Bryant entered the default judgment because neither Gamble nor Kennelly filed an appearance after Updike filed its collection complaint. The restauranteur says Kennelly will file a motion to reopen, adding that he is “pissed” Updike took the matter to court, since he was in communication with different departments at the firm. Asked if the legal debt is a sign of financial problems for his West End businesses, Gamble says the matter is just a billing dispute and not does not indicate any lack of funds.“We’re doing very well,” Gamble says. “We’ve got over 15 percent growth between the two companies.”