MOTHER VS. SON: Coldwater Cafe restaurant lawsuit ends abruptly

A lawsuit that pitted the founder of Coldwater Cafe in Tipp City against her own son — who is the current owner of the restaurant — has ended abruptly after 51 weeks of legal wrangling.

None of the parties in the lawsuit, however, has much to say about it.

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Betty Peachey, who founded Coldwater Cafe in 1994, filed her lawsuit in February 2017 claiming that her son, Nicholas Hoover, reneged on a 2011 oral agreement to pay her $40,000 per year for the rest of her life in exchange for full ownership of the restaurant.

Nearly a year of legal maneuvering later, the two sides have reached a settlement, and Peachey, in legal documents filed on Tuesday Feb. 6 in Miami County Common Pleas Court, dismissed the lawsuit, with a legally binding promise not to re-file any similar legal challenge.

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Craig Matthews, the Centerville attorney representing Peachey, gave this news outlet a statement from Peachey: “The case was settled and dismissed. I am not at liberty to discuss further.” Andrea Hoover, Nicholas Hoover’s wife, responded to an email saying, “The case was settled and dismissed. I’m not at liberty to discuss anything further.” And David Pierce, Nicholas Hoover’s attorney, said in a phone interview, “This case was settled and dismissed,” and declined further comment.

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The settlement paves the way for Coldwater Cafe to move forward without the uncertainty of the lawsuit hanging over it. The full-service, fine-dining restaurant has been a popular destination for several years. In 2017, Coldwater Cafe was included in the online-reservations website's 2017 list of the "100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America."

Prior to the settlement, both sides had plenty to say, despite their close family connection.

“Mr. Hoover never promised to pay (his mother) a lifelong, annual retirement of $40,000 a year if (she) transferred all remaining voting and non-voting shares to him,” Hoover’s former attorneys wrote in legal documents filed in 2017.

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Hoover contended that his mother had been working as “an at-will employee” of the restaurant, said his mother essentially walked out on her job in March 2014 “and never returned to work.”

After a “lengthy absence,” the lawsuit response said, Hoover determined that his mother “had abandoned her employment, and as a result, (he) terminated her employment and bi-weekly payroll payments.”

Matthews, Peachey’s attorney, had told this news outlet that, “The evidence will show Betty loved working at the cafe — it was her baby. She left only because he told her to. And he paid her retirement as he had promised until other financial commitments become more important than a son’s promise to his mother. Who pays ‘salary’ to an employee who ‘abandoned’ their job?”

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Peachey founded Coldwater Cafe in 1994, and said in her lawsuit that she originally hired her son to work in Coldwater Cafe’s kitchen, then sent him to culinary school in California to groom him to take over as executive chef at the restaurant.

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After a transfer of ownership shares over several years, Peachey said in her lawsuit that she maintained a presence in the restaurant from 2011 to early 2014. But in March 2014, her son, “to the shock and dismay of Peachey, told his mother he no longer wanted her to be at the restaurant,” her lawsuit said. But she continued receiving payments until August 2015, when Hoover informed his mother that he was stopping the payments.

“Peachey would not have allowed Hoover to acquire ownership and control of Coldwater (Cafe) had she known he would break his promise to her,” the lawsuit said.

Peachey had sought compensatory and punitive damages as well as court costs and attorneys’ fees. The settlement of the case calls for each party to pay their own attorneys’ fees.

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