A tentative agreement has been reached between Indianapolis City Market operators and longtime tenant Grecian Garden that could prevent the eatery from being evicted from the historic structure.
The deal could be finalized next week, said market attorney Bryce Bennett, who declined to provide specifics.
“We haven’t signed any documents yet, but it looks like we may be able to resolve this,” he said.
Market officials on Sept. 1 filed to evict Grecian Garden on grounds the 10-year tenant has paid its rent late for several months. A hearing on the charge, set for Friday, has been postponed.
But the eatery’s attorney, Cliff Rubenstein of Maurer Rifkin & Hill PC, disputed the late-payment claim, asserting the attempt to remove his client stems from a past legal dispute between Grecian owner John Mavrikis and market management.
“Grecian Garden has been a vocal critic of how the City Market has been run in the past,” Rubenstein said. “We feel that not only is the legal basis not justified, but it’s taken in retaliation to their past conduct.”
Mavrikis has criticized past attempts to revitalize business at the nearly 125-year-old landmark, which is undergoing a renovation that could force the ouster of other shops.
Indianapolis spent $2.7 million three years ago to renovate the guts of the City Market’s historic Main Hall, but the overhaul did little to boost business. The infrastructure work, which closed the market for months, ran over budget and took longer than expected, causing some vendors to lose business or close.
Mavrikis successfully sued City Market over lost sales stemming from that renovation. The $43,000 judgment against the market was upheld on appeal in November 2009.
Before the tentative deal, City Market amended its rent dispute against Grecian Garden to include the restaurant’s refusal to move to an alternate space during the current renovation—a relocation it says it has the right to enforce under the lease agreement.
Mavrikis, whose restaurant is located on the first floor in 700 square feet along the north wall, said the market gave him first choice of a new spot to move to during the latest renovation. Mavrikis chose a spot near the center of the first floor, but the market instead gave new tenant Natural Born Juicers that location. The juice bar hasn’t yet opened.
The market then offered Grecian Garden space on the first floor in the southwest quadrant, near the front entrance off Market Street.
Rubenstein acknowledged that the market has the right under its lease agreement with Mavrikis to move Grecian Garden, but his client wants the market to adhere to its original promise.
“Giving our space away is ridiculous,” Mavrikis said. “You’ve had tenants here who have suffered for so long. They should have first choice.”
Bennett, of Riley Bennett & Egloff LLP, said previous attempts to settle the dispute were unsuccessful.
“It’s in an ideal location,” Bennett said of the space offered to Grecian Garden. “That’s why we don’t understand why they’re making this very difficult. It’s detrimental to the market, and this is not helpful to the renovation.”
City Market is undergoing a $2.7 million refurbishment to its main building that includes new lighting, restrooms and vendor stands. Another $800,000 has been set aside for a separate project to turn the market’s east wing into a bicycle hub.
Demolition of the building’s west wing—a key component of a makeover designed to help rejuvenate the financially struggling downtown venue—is slated for the spring if more money can be found to pay for it.
The demolition could displace a handful of tenants, including Brenda Barrett, who has operated Jacks’ Barber Shop on the second floor for more than three years. Her lease expired in May and has not been renewed.
“They haven’t given me anything in writing or said anything to me,” Barrett said. “But I’m confident I’ll be staying because I’m not giving up.”
City Market Executive Director Jim Reilly said he’s trying to find space for her in the main hall but first needs to ensure having a barber shop in a food-service area meets health standards.
The future of another west-wing tenant, Abby Market, also is uncertain. The market is attempting to reconfigure its space to fit the renovation, Reilly said.
Meanwhile, the Good Stuff health store will close once the wing is demolished. Its lease expired and will not be renewed, Reilly said.
Besides Natural Born Juicers, other new tenants that have opened or are expected to soon include Oberer’s Flowers, the Chef’s Academy, Market Street Produce, 3 Days in Paris and Circle City Soups.
A bar on the second floor, Tomlinson Tap Room, opened Nov. 24. Its hours are noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.