From the article, it sounds like the original bar owners are 'make a buck fast' guys who start up businesses then sell them off.
I agree with J7, this is a requirement for any establishment that wants to play music (live or through a service) - get a BMI and ASCAP licnese. For smaller places, it is $200-300 a year, for larger places it can be a couple of thousand. It sounds like BMI has done all they can 'in a friendly way', now are taking it to hte next step. Hopefully the current owners/management will settle before it actually goes to court, because they WILL lose and incur a lot more cost than if they just paid to begin with. Of course they coudl also default by not showing up and have a lien or 'cease and desist' court order slapped on them.
I have registered all the songs on my albums with BMI, not that I expect to get any royalty money) - it's totally free to do as an artist, but a 'publishing company' has to pay to do so.
My reverbnation site: http://www.reverbnation.com/mikebirchmusic