Aspen Daily News Report — Restaurant fight heats up

by Chad Abraham, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Friday, January 30, 2015
Landlord moves to evict Jour de Féte
Three days after filing a lawsuit against its landlord, the longtime restaurant Jour de Féte is facing eviction.
The law firm representing the property owner, Iacono Family Investments, posted eviction notices Thursday at the popular eatery, according to Jour de Féte co-owner Olivier Mottier and his attorney, Matt Ferguson of Aspen.
The eviction proceeding, which Ferguson said they intend to fight, deepens a legal dispute in which Mottier and co-owner Emelio Martinez claim they have lost over $80,000 because of ongoing construction on the Durant Mall that blocked customer access. The lawsuit also says Iacono Family Investments is improperly seeking over $34,000 in condominium assessments that the restaurant owners contend they withheld with the permission of Thomas Iacono, principal of the landlord entity.
Iacono is “maliciously claiming that [Iacono’s] family real estate investment business is due $50 per day for the temporary withholding of assessments to the Durant Mall condominium [association] that was discussed with him,” Ferguson wrote in the lawsuit. That amount, which initially was $61
,334 in withheld condo assessments, now stands at $34,350 because of late penalties and interest, the lawsuit says.
Mottier sought to withhold the condo fees because the eatery has lost so much money during the construction project — the lawsuit says 6-foot-high “impenetrable” fences were erected that blocked Jour de Féte’s entrance — and Iacono allegedly told him that Iacono Family Investments (IFI) did not care about the assessments so long as the company received rent.
What was to be a mere renovation of the Durant Mall began in April 2014 and still has not finished, despite business owners allegedly being told the work would take about two months. The lawsuit says Iacono coerced Mottier into taking out a personal home-equity loan for almost $18,000 to pay for some of the work, in violation of the lease that calls for capital improvements to be the responsibility of the landlord.
The eviction notice demands payment or possession of the premises within three days, Ferguson said. Mottier and Martinez, however, “are not going anywhere,” Ferguson said.
“We’re going to fight this all the way to a jury,” he said. “This is baseless, groundless and mean-spirited.”
He and his clients shared a letter Ferguson sent Thursday to Aspen attorney David Kelly, who is representing IFI. The missive says the “penalty rent” and interest on the condo fees “are both invented to defend [IFI’s] own prior and ongoing breaches of the lease.” Ferguson also wrote that the restaurant owners paid the original $6,334, but that the money was returned 10 days later.
Iacono on Monday declined comment about the litigation, other than to say “the facts will come out in court.” Regarding the construction delays, he said that “was beyond everyone’s control.”