UPDATE: Settlement in Eviction Case Gives Jimmy John's Until June to Move
Restaurant will be demolished next summer to make way for Kent's new courthouse
The popular eatery will stay at its East Main Street location until May 31 of 2012. Starting June 1, the property owner has the right to start razing the sub shop to make way for the new Kent courthouse.
Under the settlement agreement, reached before a hearing set this morning at 8:15 a.m. in the Kent Municipal Courthouse, the property owner, Schweigert Properties Inc. of Akron, will pay an undisclosed amount to the restaurant.
David Hilkert, an Akron attorney representing Schweigert Properties, said the payment to the restaurant owner will be held in abeyance until May 31.
"That allows them to finish out the school year," Hilkert said, referring to the end of the spring semester at Kent State University. "As of June 1, we have the right to put bull dozers on the property."
The restaurant owners have said they've invested more than $400,000 in the property.
Schweigert Properties, which owns the restaurant building and site, filed an eviction notice Nov. 15 in Portage County court after the restaurant's franchisee failed to give a six-month notification that they wanted to renew the restaurant's lease, which expired Oct. 31 of this year.
Dave Lowry, the attorney for the restaurant's owners, asked a Summit County judge in September for a declaratory judgment action to determine whether or not the lease should be allowed to be renewed despite missing the notice deadline. Lowry had argued that the jurisdiction for the eviction case rested in Summit County, where Schweigert is based and where he filed the first court case. Last week, Lowry asked the district court of appeals to intercede and tell Portage County court officials not to take action because the jurisdiction for the case lies in Summit County.
This morning's settlement included an agreement that the parties would dismiss all three cases pending in Portage, Summit and the appeals courts.
Anthony Salem, who owns the sub shop with Chad Maag under the limited liability corporation SMJJ II, said they plan to find another location in Kent to reopen in.
"We're going to open up another restaurant in Kent," Salem said. "We've just got to find a spot. We're not going anywhere."
Salem plans to work with the city and Kent Economic Development Director Dan Smith to find a new location for the sandwich shop.
The attorneys reached the settlement prior to the hearing, at which they publicly discussed the terms to enter them into the record.
Portage County Commissioner Chris Smeiles, who attended the hearing, said the county's judges recused themselves from hearing the case and brought in a visiting judge, Michael McNulty, to hear the case to avoid any potential conflict of interest because the eviction case is related to the new county courthouse.
"I'm sure (this is) the best resolution for everyone involved," McNulty said.
Lowry had filed his request with the district appeals court Thursday in part because he believed it would have been a conflict of interest for a Portage judge to hear the case.
This morning's settlement includes an agreement that Jimmy John's will continue to pay a base rent of $1,916 per month through the last six months of its occupation at 313 E. Main St. plus taxes and insurance. The restaurant's rent was set to increase by 150 percent per month for holding over beyond the lease expiration.
John Flynn, the Kent attorney representing Schweigert Properties, said the settlement "was considered reasonable by all parties."
The county voted in August to partner with the city on a land exchange that would involve city officials buying the East Main Street site where Jimmy John's is located and then trading it to the county for the existing courthouse property on South Water Street.
The land swap deal came after years of debate over a new Kent courthouse location — a debate that intensified earlier this year as city officials offered several options to county leaders to try and nail down a spot.
Smeiles said the county commissioners voted last week to approve a rough draft of the new courthouse's blueprint, which puts the new building at about 25,000 square feet. He said he would like to break ground on the new courthouse as early as possible.
"Twenty-five thousand square feet, we think, is appropriate," Smeiles said.
Editor's note: this story was updated at 5 p.m. to correct errors regarding the name of the visiting judge and the rent increase.