Caves Valley Partners, the Towson-based developer overhauling Cross Street Market, has terminated the lease for Nick's Inner Harbor Seafood, a destination for eats and drinks at the Federal Hill market.
Nick's was given notice by Caves Valley on Jan. 1 that it had 31 days to vacate. Caves Valley took over the market at the start of the year, with Mackenzie Management managing the space, as part of a partnership with the city to revamp the tired market.
The termination letter cited health department violations among the reasons for ending the contract.
Arsh Mirmiran, a partner in Caves Valley Partners, confirmed the termination in an email.
"Nick’s is in material violation of its lease, with over 125 citations for health code violations during the term, including more than 50 during the last three years. Many of these violations were categorized as 'high priority' violations by the Baltimore City Health Department," Mirmiran wrote, noting violations related to rodent and insect infestations. "Given these persistent problems and our objective to improve the condition of the market, we exercised our right to terminate the lease."
Gary Maslan, an attorney representing South Cross Street Market LLC, which owns Nick's, acknowledged the stall has received health department "violations" but maintained it was never issued a citation for violating health or safety codes.
"This is just an attempt to smear this entity and try and use what are ... just minor infractions," Maslan said. "I don’t believe there's any basis for them to terminate their lease."
Sean Naron, a spokeman for the health department, said most of the violations Nick's saw were minor and the stall was never closed as a result of health inspection findings.
"Violations can be severe or more minor," he said. "The vast majority of these I believe were minor."
Maslan said Nick's is one of a few vendors at the market with a formal lease at the market, and it had several years left in its contract. Mirmiran said the lease had about 18 months left, with an option to renew for five years, before it was terminated.
Caves Valley is planning a $6.5 million renovation of the Federal Hill space, which spans the block on Cross Street between Charles and Light Streets, starting this spring. The development group is also working to secure a liquor license for the 31,000-square-foot property, which Maslan said could be complicated by the license Nick's holds. Big Jim's Deli also has a liquor license.
Mirmiran said Caves Valley will offer to buy the existing liquor licenses, and that they wouldn't impact their pursuit of a license for the entire market.
"It’s an institution that these people are trying to kill," Maslan said. "I don’t believe they’re going to be able to terminate their lease. They’re not in default of their lease obligation. The allegations they’re making are not correct."
Maslan would not elaborate on what steps Nick's might take with Caves Valley going forward.
Caves Valley will continue to work with several existing tenants "who are excited about the redevelopment and have confidence in their own abilities to provide a great product, as well as faith in our ability to deliver a redeveloped market," Mirmiran said.