Restaurant arrival on hold as litigation ties up next phase

Restaurant arrival on hold as litigation ties up next phase
A former dry cleaner and laundromat is the site for a proposed restaurant on Oak Street.

Residents hoping for the opening of a new restaurant and bar in Riverside may have a bit longer to wait. More than two years after two local restaurateurs announced plans to open a 150-seat restaurant and bar at 2224-2242 Oak St., The Roost is still in litigation.

Following a Dec. 14, 2017 hearing in Tallahassee, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal announced its ruling, 3-0, in favor of Positive Riverside Optimized Urban Development (PROUD) April 30, stating that the Jacksonville Court of Appeals does have jurisdiction to hear PROUD’s case against the Jacksonville City Council’s decision on The Roost restaurant. The ruling returns the case to Judge Kevin Blazs, Duval County Fourth Judicial Circuit Court, to hear the original appeal as well as two more motions.

“Although a setback, we remain confident that we will be opening our doors on Oak Street,” said Ted Stein, one of two partners in the venture, by way of an email in response to a request for comment. “We look forward to bringing delicious dishes similar to what we serve every day at The Local to Riverside.” The Local is a restaurant owned by Stein and his partner, J.C. Demetree, on San Jose Boulevard south of the Miramar neighborhood.

The argument centers around plans by Roost Restaurant LLC, owned by Stein and Demetree, to open the restaurant and bar at the site of the former Deluxe dry cleaner and laundromat. A vocal neighborhood group opposed the restaurant on the basis of incompatibility with the Riverside neighborhood.

Despite opposition, City Council voted 13-5 in favor of the restaurant on May 24, 2016. PROUD appealed the decision in July, but The Roost’s attorney, Paul Harden, filed a motion claiming the appeal missed the filing deadline.

The motion heard in Tallahassee centered on the definitions of “filing” and “rendition” – terms used to note when the 30-day window begins under which to file an appeal. The plaintiffs argue the clock began on June 20, 2016, the postmark of the notice of City Council’s approval, while the respondents believe the window began on the date of the approval of the ordinance.

Judge Blazs had rendered a decision Dec. 22, 2016 to accept a motion to dismiss the appeal. On May 3, 2017, he dismissed another appeal by PROUD against that decision, so the group took it to Tallahassee.

Two weeks after the tribunal’s ruling, Harden, filed a motion May 14 for a rehearing with the Tallahassee tribunal of judges.

Still to be addressed are two other motions. The second motion, filed by the restaurant group’s attorneys, cites PROUD has a “lack of standing,” that is, the property owners would not suffer adverse effects from the restaurant to a different degree from or in a different manner than the rest of the community. That motion was originally denied by Judge Blazs on the basis that he did not need to consider it, having already granted a dismissal for the filing deadline issue.

The third motion, filed by The Roost’s attorneys, will try to recoup attorneys’ fees from PROUD, and it will also most likely come before Judge Blazs, according to Kevin Pettway, one of the members of PROUD. The process could take another year to 18 months, according to PROUD’s attorney, Bryan Gowdy, said Pettway.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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