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Popular eatery in a pickle

Melissa Topey • Dec 10, 2013 at 1:56 PM

The restaurant that many credit for starting a revitalization of the downtown business district is getting tossed out onto the street.

Zinc Brasserie owners Cesare and Andrea Avallone unexpectedly received notice from Diane and Gary Ackerman, operating as Old Platt LLC, that the lease for the building where the restaurant has been for the last seven years was terminated, Andrea Avallone said.

They have to be out of 142 Columbus Ave. by Dec. 1.

The couple said they weren’t told why the lease agreement, which doesn’t expire until May 2014, was being broken.

“We have never done anything to break the terms of our lease,” Andrea Avallone said.

The monthly rent payments of $950 have always been paid on time, she said.

The restaurateurs filed a request in Erie County Common Pleas Court Thursday asking the court to stop the eviction and assure the lease is honored through the May expiration. That would give the Avallones time to come up with a solution.

They are represented by Leslie Murray of the Murray and Murray law firm.

“Old Platt LLC has no right to force termination and eviction in the middle of the annual lease term,” Murray wrote in the court complaint. The complaint alleges the Ackermans are doing this in order to prevent Zinc from operating during the holiday season.

A forced closure would disrupt the business during the restaurant’s second busiest time of the year; Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. The Ackermans are the sole owners of a separate company that operates the

J. Bistro Restaurant restaurant on West Market Street in Sandusky.

“The Ackermans have a vested interest in obtaining a monopoly interest in the fine dining establishment in downtown Sandusky,” the complaint states.    Avallone would not comment on how much money Zinc stood to lose if it cannot operate through its lease.

Losing the money would hurt, but the Avallones would be fine. For the couple the fight is more to protect their employees, she said.

“We are completely worried about our employees,” she said. “They have so many concerns.”

The Avallones started with Zinc Brasserie but created a culinary empire with Crush Wine Bar and Dockside Café at the Paper District Marina on West Shoreline Drive. They employ about 40 people, in all.

The Avallones will probably move Zinc into a new location at 213 E. Water St., next to West Marine. They are already in the process of remodeling that space for Hearth Brickoven, another restaurant the couple plans to open.

The Ackermans did not return calls seeking comment. Carl Kamm, an attorney with the Sandusky law firm, Flynn, Py & Kruse, said he had not read the court filing and declined comment.

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