PARK CITY, Utah (CN) — Intent on taking over a strip of Main Street in Park City, Utah, home to Robert Redford’s annual film festival, a California developer filed false reports about a restaurant in a 19th century railroad station there, Sundance Partners claims in court.
Redford made Park City a worldwide destination for film buffs by establishing the annual Sundance Film Festival there in 1978. It’s now the biggest independent film festival in the United States.
Sundance Partners has run the Zoom restaurant in an old Union Pacific station on Main Street since 1995, under a lease with option to purchase. In its June 1 lawsuit in Summit County Court, it says the restaurant “has become a well-known destination for cuisine,” a “thriving business” that “simultaneously breath(es) new life into the retired railway station.”
Now the business says it is threatened by Kenneth J. Abdala, a former investment banker and now a developer, who recently spent $100 million buying up a string of properties on Main Street.
“Abdalla has been renovating these properties and converting them into either multimillion-dollar private residences or more upscale hotels,” the complaint states. “For example, a rate of a room at the Sky Lodge hotel went up from $270 to $500 per night after Abdalla bought the hotel.”
With his eyes on the old railroad station, Abdalla has targeted and defamed Zoom, disrupting and interfering with its business, Sundance Partners says.
“Throughout the winter of 2015-2016, defendants have engaged in a campaign of spreading false rumors around Park City that Zoom will be closing and moving into a new space, including because Zoom’s lease is up (which it is not) and because Zoom has problems with bugs, plumbing, and mold (which it does not). These rumors have been particularly gaining momentum in recent weeks,” the lawsuit states.
Sundance says its lease runs for four more years.
Three senior executives at Zoom “have all been approached by multiple people regarding the rumors being spread by defendants that Zoom is being ‘kicked out’ of the property, and will be relocating by July 2016,” and numerous other business owners and the Chamber of Commerce have been deluged with the false rumors as well, Sundance says.
It sued Malibu Companies dba Sky Lodge Hospitality Services, Union Square Owners’ Association dba Sky Lodge HOA and Kenneth J. Abdalla, alleging tortious interference, defamation, breach of contract and breach of faith.
Redford himself is not a party to the lawsuit.
Non-party Mike Brown, beverage director for Bill White Enterprises, a group of nine restaurants in the Park City area, asked a Zoom employee during a restaurant association meeting “where Zoom was going to move in July,” the complaint states.
At least six Bill White Enterprises associates separately approached the employee and asked about Zoom’s so-called closing. “The general manager of [defendant] Sky Lodge was also recently seen by [Zoom Assistant Manager Sean] Doyle walking the perimeter of the property with another man, saying that ‘Zoom is ours’ and that Sky Lodge has ‘big plans’ for the future of the property,” the lawsuit adds.
Sundance says that its lease agreement allows it to make non-structural changes to the property, but Sky Lodge HOA is erroneously listed as owner of the plat that contains Zoom’s kitchen, and the HOA refused to let Park City issue permits for repairs to the kitchen, and made false reports to the city about “potential mold and bugs on the property.”
These rumors and false reports forced the restaurant to close for 17 days this year, including the entire Memorial Day weekend, Sundance says.
“Defendants stated that Abdalla would not authorize the Kitchen Repair ‘until he understands just what has been going on,’ and Zoom provides an e-mail explaining, ‘1) what has been happening at Zoom that has created the need for construction work at the building; 2) what construction work has already occurred; 3) what construction work remains to be done; and 4) why Zoom did not report this sooner,'” the complaint states.
Sundance Partner’s calls that a charade. “As just one example of defendants’ extraordinary delay and complete mismanagement of these repairs, the painters whose bid was finally accepted by defendants had submitted the bid to defendants on April 18, 2014 – an entire year after Zoom requested the exterior repairs,” the complaint states.
None of the defendants could be reached for comment on Thursday.
A call to Zoom was not answered.
Sundance Partners seeks an injunction and damages.
It is represented by Peggy Tomsic with Magleby Cataxinos & Greenwood, in Lehi.
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