A downtown Akron bar operator and her landlord want the city to pay for the business they allege was scared off by sewer work. The lawsuit, one of two in the works, is an attempt to force the city into filing eminent domain for damages stemming from a massive infrastructure project.

Galaxy Properties Ltd. of Mogadore, which owns a downtown building set up for two bars, filed the lawsuit Monday with its first-floor tenant, 69 Taps. Together, they're asking the court to compel the city to pay for business losses associated with a noisy and dusty sewer project next door. The damages sought could include buying the bar, which has struggled financially since at least 2013, a couple of years before construction began.

The city had not yet received the civil complaint, which will be scheduled for an initial hearing in Summit County Common Pleas Judge Allison McCarty's courtroom. Attorney Warner Mendenhall is representing the business owner and bar operator Kindra Grattan.

Mendenhall said he’ll file another lawsuit in two or three weeks as he collects other clients who say a massive tunnel drilled beneath downtown has caused excessive noise and dust, basement walls to crumble, foundations to crack and businesses to lose customers. The Akron attorney said three clients have retained his services in the second lawsuit, which involves homeowners on Mustill Street near a hill along the Little Cuyahoga River where a giant tunnel-boring machine named Rosie launched a mile-long journey, leaving a 27-foot-tall hole under Akron.

“The city has had this massive project,” Mendenhall said of the $184.1 million Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel project. “It’s caused massive disruption in people’s lives, particularly in low-income communities. The dust, the noise, the vibration has severely affected the 69 Taps business and, more than that, other business and other residents that are nearby.”

Mendenhall’s strategy is to draw the city into negotiations to reach a settlement that would cover the loss of revenue since the project began. He’s arguing that the city has “taken” from the private business, which "can mean a lot of things,” he explained. “In the most extreme instance, say the city destroyed the building. But in this case, the city badly damaged the business by dust, vibration and interfering with access to the business.”

From March 1 to April 18, the lawsuit says the city blocked traffic to Paul Williams Street, a short alley off West Exchange Street with back doors for businesses on South Main Street and the building owned by Galaxy Properties. The landlord said it's stopped collecting $5,000 in monthly rent to keep 69 Taps, its sole tenant. The Branded Saloon on the second floor closed last year.

On the construction site behind the bar is a 166-foot-deep hole that's 45 feet wide. Towering cranes erected in the past month are hoisting pieces of Rosie out of the ground. There's a steady beeping and engine humming. Work began in 2015, shifting the Towpath Trail a few feet as the city spruced up Main Street to keep foot traffic from suffering.

The bar’s revenue, however, started to fall before the construction. According to tax filings attached to the lawsuit, gross receipts at 69 Taps were down $248,725 from 2012 to 2015. Annual revenue through 2017 fell again by $85,457.

Mendenhall did not have an explanation for the earlier losses. “Obviously, those are issues that we would be exploring. But what I see is a very clear drop after construction began," he said.

 

Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @ABJDoug on Twitter or www.facebook.com/doug.livingston.92 on Facebook.