The landlord of Circle Centre is again suing Bella Vita restaurant over unpaid rent, this time claiming the mall tenant owes $77,275.24.
In a lawsuit filed Jan. 24 in Marion Superior Court, Circle Centre Mall LLC alleges the restaurant has been in default of its lease since Nov. 10. Restaurant operator Najem Enterprises Inc. also is named as a defendant.
Circle Centre first sued Bella Vita in June 2010 over $96,523.23 in unpaid rent, according to the previous suit.
Bella Vita owner Henri Najem has operated a Bella Vita restaurant in the Indianapolis area since 1998 along with his wife, Shelley, including the past seven years at Geist Marina. The owners in January 2010 opened a second Bella Vita in high-traffic space on the first floor of Circle Centre that had been empty since longtime tenant Bertolini’s closed in March 2008.
Najem could not be reached Monday morning for comment. Neither could Richard M. Giesel, an attorney at local law firm Gaston Cavanaugh & Giesel, which represents Circle Centre.
According to court documents, Bella Vita in November 2009 executed a lease agreement for 6,490 square feet of space in Circle Centre, agreeing to pay $200,000 in the first year in equal installments due the first day of each month. In the second year of Bella Vita’s lease, rent was slated to increase to $206,000, with another increase to $212,180 scheduled for the third year.
Circle Centre implies in its lawsuit that Bella Vita’s latest financial struggles began in June 2011, when the landlord agreed to lend the restaurant $150,000 at 3.25-percent interest to be paid in 19 consecutive installments.
Then, in September, Circle Centre agreed to amend Bella Vita’s lease by agreeing to accept $179,000 as a settlement for overdue rent totaling $191,863, according to court documents.
But Circle Centre declared the promissory note and lease amendment in default on Nov. 10 and demanded Bella Vita pay the balance within two weeks, the lawsuit said.
Circle Centre wants immediate possession of the space and says the $77,275.24 that Bella Vita owes is set to increase monthly by $20,547.23.
The restaurant remains open.