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UPDATE: City Market has tentative deal with longtime tenant

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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.
 

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  • There is More to The Big Picture
    Big, I am well-aware that there are situations where a landlord might wish to negotiate with a tenant who is late on the rent, rather than seeking eviction. However, there is a difference between an individual landlord who perhaps cannot afford to have an empty house in a less than desirable area in a bad housing market, and a large landlord of a large retail/food service property with plenty of other tenants who is in the position to afford to go without rent from one particular tenant until a replacement tenant for that particular tenant is found. The Grecian Garden is not an anchor department store at a mall, it is simply one of several food service tenants, and I am sure the Market could get along quite well without it, even if it were to take a year to find another tenant, which is not necessarily the case. Also, even with the bad retail market, the Market has recently found new tenants, so I think that has to be considered in the "big picture," as you note.
  • Not thinking it through
    Chris, it's true that late payments are a default, but the solution to that isn't always kicking out the tenant, because that solution doesn't necessarily improve your situation. You're assuming that there are plenty of other tenants out there who are just dying to move in to the Market, and that's clearly not the case. I'm in the same boat with a rental property I own - the tenant pays late quite often, but always pays the rent and takes good care of the place. Sure, I could evict him and take my chances that I can a) find another tenant easily; b) get a judgment for the lost rent and cost of preparing the place for a new tenant; and c) collect on the judgment, but I'd rather not invest the time and energy in this process. Sometimes the legal "solution" really isn't the best way to solve a problem.
    • Stupid
      This is a sad situation on all fronts. A place that should have been nurtured and seriously viewed as a valuable city asset, potentially "worth" more than Conseco or LOS, was left to decay to its present situation. Years of inept management and an unwillingness to recognize the underlying problem of the Market to this very day will ultimately result in failure again. Until the parking situation is addressed, this latest attempt will be a failure. Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result each time...........
    • Ballard Again??????
      First the city undertook actions that reduced traffic through the market by closing sections. Those businesses who struggled to survive did not get the revenue that they once use to. Case in point, a ten-year vendor has a track record of knowing how to do the right things to succeed. But because the city (Ballard) keeps on disrupting his business this does put strain. Ballard can give tens of millions of dollars to the Simons for buy at 10 million dollar digital sign for the Pacers, but it cannot give any on a business that is struggling due to the bad GOP economy and the mismanagement of this GOP city administration. They went to court and won, and it is obvious that Ballard and his cronies is in the payback mode. Ballard and his jokers need to get their fanny spanked int he next election, as this inept guy needs to find a job in the private sector.
    • What a shame
      It would be a real loss to the City Market to lose this tenant. When I think about the vendors in the market, Grecian Garden is in my top three for their quality food and friendliness.
    • Late Payments Are a Default
      Tom, if you were renting a house and the tenant was late on their payments, would you just keep letting them have the place rent free? Being a landlord is a business, and if a tenant is late on their rent, then they are not a good tenant. It doesn't matter if they were a great tenant for 100 years, once they stop paying on time, they become a liability.

      Now, if you want to discuss the other allegations, fine--there may or may not be some interesting things going on there. But, defending late payment or nonpayments is really a losing argument.
    • Bad for Business
      It doesn't make sense to kick out a ten year vendor for a few late payments. The City Market needs all the vendors they can get. In fact, they need many more than they now have. All of the best markets I've been to in San Fran, Philly, Boston and other cities I've traveled to pack the vendors in tight to offer the maximum number of choices to attract consumers. Is this place run by a political appointee or some government agency? How can they be throwing out a vendor? If they are mad about losing the $43K they need to get over it. The City Market can redecorate as much as they like, but customers are only mildly interested in the decor, what we really want selection. More vendors at City Market is what the building needs.
      • Ballard Administration Geniuses
        There is an air of stupidity that is beginning to cloud the Ballard administration. The City Market debacle, parking meter debacle, and Pacer's debacle are just a few. Tenants are not lining up to rent at the City Market. It has been poorly run for years, there isn't much traffic to speak of on the weekends, and if you are not receiving 80% of your revenue from a lunch crowd, you can't make it there. Attempting to evict a 10 year tenant who is alleged to have paid a few months rent late is absolutely ridiculous. There aren't that many tenants that would tolerate the nonsense that passes for management at the City Market.

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