Lawsuit seeks to shutter Lemon Grove
By Jamison Cocklin
The Lemon Grove and its owner, Jacob Harver, are facing a second civil lawsuit.
The latest, filed Aug. 30, alleges that the business no longer has the means to carry on with operations and requests the aid of the court in dissolving it.
George Nakley of Lowellville, identified in court documents as a shareholder, seeks to dissolve the business by asking the court to appoint a third-party trustee to oversee The Lemon Grove’s breakup and allocate whatever assets remain afterward.
The lawsuit is the second filed against the downtown cafe in less than a week. A lawsuit filed Aug. 28 in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court claims Harver breached his contract with landlord SKA Limited and violated the terms of his lease by removing six sinks, outdoor fencing and a kitchen exhaust hood at The Lemon Grove’s former location at 122 W. Federal St.
In July, The Lemon Grove moved from that location two doors east to 110 W. Federal St., a much larger space, formerly occupied by the Rosetta Stone Cafe and Wine bar.
In addition to the more than $20,000 in compensation being sought by SKA, Harver will now have to deal separately with Nakley, who is essentially seeking to shut down the business and recover his investment.
Reached on Tuesday, Harver declined to comment on the new lawsuit because he was not familiar with its details. But he did say the restaurant is solvent and on stable financial ground.
“We’re on a tight week-to-week budget, but we’re able to keep doing this and keep things going,” Harver said. “It’s not as if we’re sitting on a huge nest egg, but we’re doing good.”
Neither Nakley nor his attorney could be reached for further comment Tuesday.
As with other downtown businesses, Harver first received community block grants to move into 122 W. Federal St. in 2009. As late as 2011, he admitted the restaurant was having difficulties balancing its bottom line, paying $1,200 a month in overdraft fees.
The Lemon Grove “broke the first rule of business: We had no working capital,” Harver told The Vindicator in April.
Then in July, Harver, along with business partner George Lenahan, finalized the $400,000 purchase at 110 W. Federal St., a feat Harver acknowledges would not have been possible without Lenahan’s backing.
Today, Harver is a 50 percent owner of the new building and he says mortgage payments are the same as they were in the old building at $3,000 per month. He acknowledged, however, that insurance and utility payments are much higher.
Nakley claims in his complaint with the court, however, that “it is not reasonably practicable to carry on the business of The Lemon Grove LLC.”
Harver has not yet obtained an attorney for either lawsuit, and it remains unclear what stake Nakley holds in the company.