Former restaurant manager’s lawsuit against The Greene Town Center moves forward

Retail center is seeking to dismiss the claim, but a hearing is scheduled for next week in case involving former Choe’s Asian Gourmet

A lawsuit filed by a former restaurant manager against The Greene  Town Center 10 months ago is moving forward in spite of a request from The Greene’s attorney to dismiss the case.

A magistrate’s pretrial is scheduled for this Monday, Sept. 23, presided by Greene County Common Pleas Magistrate Margaret Young, according to the court’s online records.

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Ann Hiddens of Washington Twp., a former manager of the now-defunct Choe’s Asian Gourmet restaurant at The Greene, acted as her own attorney in the Dec. 21, 2018 filing of the lawsuit. There was some initial difficulty in formally serving the lawsuit against The Greene’s owners, however, so the progress of the lawsuit was delayed during the first half of 2019. The lawsuit wasn’t served successfully until July.

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In the lawsuit, Hiddens claims The Greene inappropriately seized and kept equipment and personal items during an eviction dispute involving Choe’s Asian Gourmet. She says The Greene’s management appeared to withhold her property so it could be utilized by a successor restaurant that opened in the Choe’s Asian Gourmet space. The suit claims The Greene’s actions “were deliberate and meant to harm” her, and it seeks  compensatory damages in excess of $25,000 and punitive damages of an unspecified amount.

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An Aug. 28 response to the lawsuit by The Greene’s attorney, Susan D. Solle of the Dayton office of Dinsmore & Shohl, denies Hiddens’ claims and asks a judge to dismiss the case “in its entirety.”

Hiddens’ lawsuit is the second lawsuit to arise from the demise of Choe’s Asian Gourmet. The Greene won the first one, a “forcible entry” action filed in late 2017 that named the restaurant and its corporate ownership, as well as Hiddens herself, as defendants.

>> EARLIER COVERAGE: The Greene evicts one of its own restaurants

The lawsuit claimed that the LLC that was operating Choe’s Asian Gourmet owed more than $49,000 in rent and utilities that had accumulated since July of 2017. The suit led to the eviction of Choe’s, and The Greene was awarded a $384,000 certificate of judgment.

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The final $384,000 tally that The Greene calculated that it was ultimately owed by the owners of Choe’s Asian Gourmet included $68,600 in past-due rent and late fees, $56,500 to cover costs of preparing the property to lease to a new tenant, 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 added for repairs and cleaning.

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Some of the issues raised in Hiddens’ most recent lawsuit were also a part of that 2017 eviction action.

Hiddens’ lawsuit has been assigned to Greene County Common Pleas Judge Michael A. Buckwalter, who also presided over the eviction lawsuit and awarded the $384,000 default judgment to The Greene.

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A new restaurant called Ace Asian Cafe, operating with new ownership and management, opened in the former Choe's space in April 2018.

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