WEDNESDAY, Sept. 19 — The Michigan Supreme Court has denied an appeal to the Waterfront Bar & Grill in its dispute with the city of Lansing over occupying space in the Lansing City Market.
The three-line order, issued last Tuesday, simply states the court denied the application to appeal the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling in favor of Lansing from April 18, “because we are not persuaded that the question should be reviewed by this Court.”
The ruling for the high court should be the end of the 16-month legal battle between the owners of the Waterfront Grill and the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Association, which managed the Lansing City Market and leased the market space to Waterfront, as well as the city of Lansing.
“Through this decision, we have the opportunity to move forward and put these important projects in the motion for the region,” said Scott Keith, the president and CEO of LEPFA, who noted the new Rotary Park had already been completed, helping to revitalize the riverfront.
“We understand some of our residents have strong ties to the former Lansing City Market, but we fully believe that the site has much greater potential going forward to have a wider appeal for public use.”
However, Waterfront representative Patrice Drainville hedged on whether they’d immediately shut down and leave. “We’re still exploring some legal options,” she said. And as of Thursday, the grill was still open for business.
Danville said they would still be willing to work with the city either to take over the full space at the market, or at least to have their liquor license transferred to another location where they could reopen. Otherwise, Waterfront’s 15 employees may be laid off.
She said the city promised to help them move in May 2018, before the litigation began only to ghost them. So they sued.
The city has moved to push Waterfront out of the City Market so that the failing civic space can be shut down and put to a different use. In court, the city argued Waterfront had voided its lease because of past minor health code violations and a late payment of rent. Drainville and Waterfront disputed the old lease violations were sufficient for eviction. “I think it sets a dangerous precedent, that you can have a lease with the city and they can kick you out for any reason they want,” she said.
After years of decline and alleged mismanagement, the Lansing City Market had lost all of its other vendors and LEPFA and city leaders decided to cut their losses, close the market and transfer ownership to the city for redevelopment. The city had maintained a subsidy for the market operations, which Mayor Andy Schor had moved to cut.
In a statement, Schor extended an olive branch to Waterfront:
“When the facility was a true City Market, it made sense to encourage and support our local growers and small vendors through taxpayer dollars,” Schor said. “However, the city funding was not intended to offer support to a local restaurant. The Waterfront Bar & Grill has developed a faithful following and we hope they will choose to remain in the city and continue to serve their patrons in a new location.”