Springboro restaurant shuttered since summer now faces lawsuit

Owners of a previous restaurant seek financial damages from The Highland Stag

The Highland Stag restaurant and pub in Springboro, which has not been open to the public since early last summer, is now facing a civil lawsuit alleging fraud, misrepresentation and breach of contract, and seeking financial damages in excess of $25,000.

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The lawsuit was filed by Shawnette Hixon and James Hadfield, who now live in Mesa, Arizona, and were the owners of the former Soooo Good Gourmet Cafe, which operated in the space at 75 N. Main St. now occupied by The Highland Stag. The lawsuit names The Highland Stag and two individuals, Patricia Ann MacKenzie and Heather MacKenzie Davis, as defendants. Ann MacKenzie is the owner of The Highland Stag, and her daughter, Heather MacKenzie Davis, is its manager, according to previous news releases from the restaurant.

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The lawsuit says the two sets of restaurant owners entered into an asset-purchase agreement, management agreement and escrow agreement in December 2016. The lawsuit alleges that The Highland Stag, and its owner and manager breached the terms of those agreements, in part by failing to pay Ohio sales taxes and Ohio commercial-activities taxes beginning in March 2018 and extending through early 2019.

Ohio Division of Liquor Control online records show two separate liquor licenses under The Highland Stag Inc. name were “cancelled,” one in April and one in July, and it also lists three separate licenses for wine, beer and spirits, as “pending” under the Highland Stag name.

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Neither The Highland Stag nor its owner or manager have formally responded yet to the lawsuit, which was filed Nov. 15 in Warren County Common Pleas Court by Springboro attorney Scott G. Oxley. Messages left with Heather MacKenzie Davis today, Dec. 2 were not immediately returned.

On the Active Springboro Community Facebook page, “Heather MacKenzie” submitted a reply to a post about the restaurant, saying, “Since this is a pending legal matter, The Highland Stag will not be commenting on several of the rumors that have been spread or lies that have been told.”

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The commenter did say The Highland Stag has “never had an issue, civil or criminal,” and added, “Thank you to the many people that continue to support us in a positive way.”

In September, Heather MacKenzie Davis told this news outlet that the restaurant was “NOT permanently closed,” and said, “We are temporarily closed due to some unplanned setbacks that occurred.” She declined to elaborate on the nature of the unplanned setbacks.

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At the time, a hand-written sign taped to the window by the restaurant’s entrance said the restaurant “is currently closed for hood and ventilation repairs. We apologize for any inconvenience. We look forward to seeing all of you soon!”

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages in addition to a judgment “in excess of $25,000,” and also seeks attorneys’ fees. The case has been assigned to Warren County Common Pleas Judge Timothy N. Tepe.

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