A judge has rebuffed an attempt by a former restaurant at The Greene Town Center to reduce or eliminate a judgment that it owes the retail center $384,000 in back rent, fees, and other obligations under the lease it signed prior to opening at 4394 Juniper Way on the eastern side of The Greene.
>> SIMILAR CASE: Local retailer owes The Greene nearly $900K in rent, fees
Greene County Common Pleas Judge Michael A. Buckwalter ruled in December that the owners of Choe’s Asian Gourmet restaurant violated their lease agreement with The Greene and awarded the retail center full access to the property. The action was taken after the restaurant’s operators failed to respond in a timely manner to the lawsuit, according to court documents.
But in March, Eugene Robinson, a Dayton attorney representing the most recent owners of Choe’s Asian Gourmet, filed a vigorous challenge to The Greene’s claim that it was owed $383,973 and that the lawsuit should be declared finished. Robinson claimed in court documents that The Greene was way off on its calculations, and had in fact changed the locks and refused entry to the restaurant’s owners.
>> EARLIER COVERAGE: The Greene evicts one of its own restaurants
That action blocked the owners’ access to several thousand dollars of their personal property, including $2,000 in cash and thousands more in inventory and equipment, Robinson argued. The court filing claimed it was the restaurant that was owed money — perhaps reaching more than $50,000 in the value of personal property appropriated by The Greene.
An attorney for The Greene scoffed at that notion in a subsequent legal response, saying The Greene had given plenty of warning to the owners of Choe’s and had “boxed up seven boxes of personal property” to return to the restaurant owners. Dayton attorney Susan D. Solle urged the judge to end the case and award her client $384,000 plus interest.
The lawsuit had remained dormant since the spirited legal exchange in March. But last week, more than seven months since the latest formal activity on the lawsuit’s docket, Judge Buckwalter filed a decision siding squarely with The Greene’s attorneys and granting the $384,000 judgment against the restaurant’s LLC corporate owners.
Reached by telephone Tuesday, Robinson said he was aware of the judge’s ruling, but said no decision has been made on a next step for the former restaurant’s owners. When asked whether an appeal was possible, Robinson said, “Hope springs eternal,” and declined to elaborate.
The legal dispute started in November 2017 when attorneys for The Greene’s management filed a “forcible entry” lawsuit that led to the eviction of Choe’s Asian Gourmet. The original lawsuit claimed that the limited liability corporation that was operating Choe’s Asian Gourmet owed more than $49,000 in rent and utilities that had accumulated since July of 2017.
The final $383,973 tally that The Greene calculated that it was ultimately owed by the owners of Choe’s Asian Gourmet includes $68,600 in past-due rent and late fees, $56,500 to cover costs of preparing the property to re-lease, and $257,500 in “accelerated rent difference” — basically, the difference of the rent that had been due from the most recent owners through the lease term scheduled to end in September 2020 and the new tenant’s lease. Another $1,300 was tacked on for repairs and cleaning.
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the most recent manager of Choe’s Asian Gourmet told this news outlet that the restaurant’s business had been slow in late 2017 in part because foot traffic was down in the restaurant’s eastern section of The Greene. She said she attempted to re-negotiate the terms of her lease but instead was ordered to vacate. She said some of the restaurant’s problems stemmed from a disgruntled former employee.
A new restaurant called Ace Asian Cafe, operating with new ownership and management, opened in the former Choe’s space in April 2018.