Three months ago, Tom and Brian Finnerty ran into legal trouble over prime rib recipes. Now, the Spokane business owners are dealing with another legal problem - a lawsuit trying to throw them out of their new restaurant over unpaid bills.
The Seattle landlord of the brothers’ eatery, Finnerty’s at the Arena, has filed a lawsuit in Spokane Superior Court, alleging the Finnertys owe more than $33,000 in unpaid rent and other bills.
Tom Finnerty said on Friday the suit, filed by a business management firm called Wilgeo IV, is the result of “miscommunications and a disagreement over lease terms.”
The Finnertys last year made arrangements to lease the old Sea Galley Restaurant near the new Spokane Arena. Starting in February, they hired a contractor to remodel and refurbish the building.
In late August, shortly before they opened the Arena restaurant, a competing downtown restaurant filed suit in Spokane Superior Court, saying some recipes offered by the Finnerty’s chef were stolen from its menu.
A month later, the Finnertys and the owners of Clinkerdagger’s Restaurant signed an agreement ending the suit. The brothers agreed not to use any recipes that Clinkerdagger’s claimed were its trade secrets.
Wilgeo is a subsidiary of Seattle-based Galt Enterprises, which develops businesses and leases commercial property throughout the Northwest.
Wilgeo attorney Jerome Carpenter said the suit demands a response and payment of the bill by Monday.
Tom Finnerty said he’s trying to resolve the problem without attorneys, adding “we’ve already paid them what we owe in rent for October and November.”
But still in dispute are rents for July and August. Wilgeo said those payments of $6,061 a month are due, plus monthly late fees of $606.19.
“The problem is they feel the lease started in July. We think it doesn’t really start until October,” said Tom Finnerty.
The Finnertys contend the landlord offered them a four-month grace period before lease payments became due.
The actual starting date for the remodeled restaurant changed more than once because of “troubles we had getting all the work done, once we got inside the building,” said Brian Finnerty.
“That’s why we paid for October and November, but not the first three months,” added Tom Finnerty.
He and his brother are the only partners in the restaurant, he added. They also run Finnerty’s Red Lion Sports Bar.
“Tell people that we’re working this thing out, we’re not selling the restaurant and we’re all good guys,” Tom Finnerty said.
The Wilgeo lawsuit also asks Spokane Superior Court to invalidate a lien placed on Finnerty’s at the Arena by Garco Construction of Spokane, which did most of the restaurant remodeling.
Garco filed the lien, claiming the brothers have failed to pay their bills for that work.
The amount sought through that lien, filed Oct. 25, was not available.
Tom Finnerty said the money will be paid to Garco, once the last phases of remodeling are complete.
“There are a lot of things remaining to be done. This is standard stuff for contractors,” Finnerty added. “Until they get their money, they file a lien.”
Tim Welsh, Garco’s manager and co-owner, could not be reached for comment.