Choe’s Asian Gourmet loses lawsuit.

Former restaurant manager files lawsuit against The Greene

A former restaurant manager who has been involved for more than a year in a separate legal action involving The Greene Town Center has filed a lawsuit against the owner of the retail, commercial and residential development, claiming that The Greene inappropriately seized and kept equipment and personal items during an eviction dispute.

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The lawsuit was filed in Greene County Common Pleas Court by Ann Hiddens of Washington Twp., a former manager of the now-defunct Choe’s Asian Gourmet restaurant at The Greene.

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Hiddens claims in the lawsuit that Steve Willshaw, general manager of The Greene, appeared to withhold her property so it could be utilized by a successor restaurant that opened in the Choe’s Asian Gourmet space. The suit claims The Greene’s action “were deliberate and meant to harm” her, and it seeks  compensatory damages in excess of $25,000 and punitive damages of an unspecified amount.

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Contacted Monday, Dec. 31, Willshaw said he was not aware of the lawsuit. A message left Monday with Susan Solle, the Dayton attorney who represented The Greene in its eviction lawsuit against Choe’s Asian Gourmet, had not been returned as of this morning, Jan. 2. 

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Hiddens filed the lawsuit “pro se,” or representing herself, on Dec. 21 — one week after a $384,000 certificate of judgment was filed against the corporation that owned and operated Choe’s Asian Gourmet. The certificate of judgment was the result of the eviction lawsuit that The Greene filed in late 2017.

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Some of the issues raised in Hiddens’ lawsuit were also a part of that eviction lawsuit. In a “motion to reconsider” the judge’s decision in that casem an attorney for Choe’s Asian Gourmet’s LLC  owner claimed that the restaurant’s former ownership team “had no opportunity to recover its property and equipment because it was locked out of the premises by (The Greene’s management) an hour after the decision of eviction was ordered by the court.” The restaurant owners were “threatened by (The Greene’s management) with a criminal charge in the event of recovery and removal” of their own property, the attorney wrote. 

>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE: THE GREENE: former restaurant squandered chance to defend itself in its eviction lawsuit

That action blocked the owners’ access to several thousand dollars of their personal property, including $2,000 in cash as well as inventory and equipment possibly valued at more than $50,000, the attorney argued.

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An attorney for The Greene scoffed at that notion in a subsequent legal response, saying The Greene had given plenty of warning to the owners of Choe’s and had “boxed up seven boxes of personal property” to return to the restaurant owners.  

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Hiddens’ lawsuit has been assigned to Greene County Common Pleas Judge Michael A. Buckwalter, who presided over the eviction lawsuit and awarded the $384,000 default judgment to The Greene. An attorney representing Choe’s Asian Gourmet’s corporate owner has filed a notice of appeal to the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals of Buckwalter’s decision in that case. 

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That legal dispute started in November 2017 when attorneys for The Greene’s management filed a “forcible entry” lawsuit that led to the eviction of Choe’s Asian Gourmet. The original lawsuit claimed that the limited liability corporation that was operating Choe’s Asian Gourmet owed more than $49,000 in rent and utilities that had accumulated since July  of 2017. 

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The final $383,973 tally that The Greene calculated that it was ultimately owed by the owners of Choe’s Asian Gourmet includes $68,600 in past-due rent and late fees, $56,500 to cover costs of preparing the property to re-lease, and $257,500 in “accelerated rent difference” — basically, the difference of the rent that had been due from the most recent owners through the lease term scheduled to end in September 2020 and the new tenant’s lease. Another $1,300 was added for repairs and cleaning.

>> EARLIER COVERAGE: The Greene evicts one of its own restaurants

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Choe’s Asian Gourmet’s manager told this news outlet that the restaurant’s business had been slow in late 2017 in part because foot traffic was down in the restaurant’s eastern section of The Greene. She said she attempted to re-negotiate the terms of her lease but instead was ordered to vacate. She said some of the restaurant’s problems stemmed from a disgruntled former employee.

A new restaurant called Ace Asian Cafe, operating with new ownership and management, opened in the former Choe’s space in April 2018.

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