Circle Centre sues restaurant Bella Vita over unpaid rent

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Six months after opening a high-profile location in Circle Centre, Bella Vita restaurant is being sued by the landlord over $96,523.23 in unpaid rent.

In a civil lawsuit filed Monday, June 7, in Marion County Court, plaintiff Circle Centre Mall LLC says defendant Bella Vita LLC has been in default on its lease since April 19. Najem Enterprises Inc. is also named as a defendant.

Bella Vita owner Henri Najem—who has ties to embattled local businessman Tim Durham—has operated a Bella Vita restaurant in the Indianapolis area since 1998 along with his wife, Shelley, including the past five years at Geist Marina. The owners in January opened a second Bella Vita in high-traffic space on the first floor of Circle Centre that had been empty since long-time tenant Bertolini’s closed in March 2008.

Najem did not respond to IBJ’s call requesting comment. Neither did Richard M. Giesel, an attorney with locally-based Gaston, Cavanaugh and Giesel, which represents Circle Centre.

According to court documents, Bella Vita on Nov. 11 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 is slated to increase to $206,000, with another increase to $212,180 scheduled for the third year. Bella Vita also agreed to an annual central plant charge of $14,927. The lease includes a personal guarantee by Henri Najem.

On April 19, according to court documents, Circle Centre declared the lease officially in default, notified Bella Vita, and demanded the lease’s terms be met by May 2. Bella Vita “failed and refused” to cure its default by that deadline, according to the lawsuit, which notes Circle Centre is now entitled to immediate repossession of the space.

The restaurant was still open as of Thursday.

In December, Najem told IBJ he’d sought an opportunity to open a restaurant downtown for two years. “All the development and the expansion of the [Indiana] Convention Center really drew me here,” he said then.

Durham is not involved in the downtown Bella Vita, but he has partnered with Najem on previous attempts to expand the restaurant.


  • Jag
    How can you owe almost $100,000. in back rent and drive a brand new jag?
  • Just Desserts
    Well Henri, it has taken quite a while for your schemes to unravel. You've been abusing your help for years, can't keep quality Chefs in your restaurants because you're a cheap-skate and because you not only bounce payroll checks, but to your vendors, too. You were a dead-beat before the Geist Marina opened and you're still a dead-beat today. Glad to see your "money-man" Tim Durham is getting his due, too! Hope you both get to rot in jail. Better get used to the bologna sandwiches!
    • LOOSER
      Poor Henri, who's going to bail you out this time. Your bank (Tim Durham) has tried up and now reality is looking at you. What makes you think that you don't have to pay your bills? For once, little Timmy can't help you. Maybe you should go back to Vegas to try to win some money. Oops, you are probably on their hit list since you reviously ran out of town without paying your debt.
    • good or bad
      "Absurd" in what sense? Good deal for renter or bad deal for renter?
    • Karma bites
      Henry--we both know you are reading this so let's be blunt.

      You lived in a "piece of crap" house at 7830 Pineview in Indy until your "timely purchases" in Brightpoint in a group with Tim Durham. And where did the money to purchase Brightpoint come from? Oh yeah, Tim bought it for you! Remember? Remember how you helped Tim post on the Yahoo Brightpoint message boards all the time? I remember, in fact all those messages I printed out, and saved for the day you guys finally got caught, those are all in the Philadelphia office of the SEC who is investigating the insider trading angle of this mess. Why were you posting on the Brightpoint boards all the time? You weren't buying stock in Lilly or Cummins or anyone but Brightpoint--at the very time bondholders were fleeing in anticipation of bankruptcy. But, you knew they weren't going bankrupt, didn't you Henri. Not bad for a guy who didn't even understand a p/e and hadn't owned any stock except Penske--you remember that, don't you, wasn't Penske one of your customers?

      Then, suddenly, you had a mansion at Geist! Then, a second waterfront mansion at Geist! Then, millions to blow on your Geist restaurant! You were important!

      And, suddenly, you just happened to know to tinmely buy Cellstar stock right before Brightpoint bought them! And you made lots of money again!

      Money you have never been able to manage. In fact you started gambling with the boys, didn't you? Remember when you were arrested in Vegas for failure to pay markers? Oh, who bailed you out? Tim Durham! With money that came from elderly Fair Finance victims! Remember? How about those IRS bills? With money from Tim Durham that came from elderly Fair Finance victims! In fact, the original source of all the money to purchase Brightpoint came from elderly Fair Finance victims, didn't it Henri?

      You would be wise to strike a deal for immunity and open your mouth because charges ARE coming for Tim and several of his cohorts and since you knew darned well how Tim was getting his money the premise could be made you have repeatedly been in receipt of stolen goods.

      The premise could be made that you are part of a criminal raqueteering group whose success came only at the expense of the life savings of all those Ohio people and insider trading on two stocks both of which you were tipped off on.

      Gosh, how stupid of you not to take your profits and shut up. But, like Tim you could not stand people not thinking you were something big. Tim, King of the Dorks.
    • What were they thinking?
      $31 per sf? What were they thinking?
      As a 30 year veteran of F&B ops at the Crossing and Downtown, I say that's absurd rent for that 'hidden' location!
      • Hahahaha
        It couldn't happen to 2 better people. They use people like a dirty dish rag and after they have milked you for everything, both of them will drop you like a hot potato. I feel sorry for their kids.
      • Why?
        This has nothing do with Durham and I definitly don't defend his business practices but what's the purpose of including his name in this article? Poor attempt at journalism.
      • Broken Link
        The link for Najem is broken.
      • They've always been shady!
        I met these people years ago and saw how shady they are. What goes around, comes around.
      • Hmmmm
        Not surprised AT ALL!!!

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