Restaurateurs sue over canceled plans


Owners of a restaurant franchise who wanted to open an outlet in the old Robinson's department store in downtown Glen Burnie have canceled their plans and are suing the building's owners for $500,000.

James B. Coulter Jr., who, with his wife, Sylvia, and another couple own the Italian Oven in Severna Park, had hoped to open in downtown Glen Burnie last November.

But in a suit filed last week in Anne Arundel Circuit Court, the partners say the building's owner, the North Star Group, failed to live up to the lease and did not complete work on the building by the Aug. 1, 1994, deadline.

Glen Burnie Ovens limited partnership wants $250,000 in compensatory damages and another $250,000 in punitive damages, plus attorneys' fees and expenses.

"It's an unfortunate situation," said Mr. Coulter, who referred further questions to his Annapolis lawyer, Steven R. Migdal. Mr. Migdal did not return phone calls yesterday.

The loss of the restaurant leaves a vacant, rundown building in the heart of Glen Burnie's urban renewal district and is a blow to the community's revitalization efforts.

Things were looking up last July, when Mr. Coulter announced he would put an Italian Oven in the Robinson's building, which had been vacant for nearly six years.

However, workers found sawdust and rotted plant roots about nine feet deep under the building, which led to the floorboards sagging. Construction slowed as engineers tried to determine the best way to make repairs, and Mr. Coulter revised the opening date to September.

The suit said the North Star partners "disregarded the advice of their own architects," who proposed securing the floor with auger-driven piles to avoid settlement and possible safety hazards. North Star hired another engineer to come up with a cheaper alternative, an unreinforced concrete slab, the suit said.

The suit said that North Star failed to provide assurances that the floor would be safe.

Letters were sent in May to two of the North Star partners, Paul J. Jones Jr., an Easton lawyer, and his brother, William F. Jones, an Annapolis lawyer, informing them that Glen Burnie Ovens was terminating its lease, the suit said.

William F. Jones said yesterday that the partners intend to hire a lawyer and fight the suit. "The lawsuit contains numerous material misstatements of fact," he said.

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