Tim Bauckman, owner of Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant and Crabhouse, turned to the courts last month hoping a judge will rule he has the right to extend his lease by one year, maybe two.
His landlord, however, has since answered with a counter lawsuit that not only seeks to dismiss Bauckman’s claim but asks for almost $500,000 in damages.
The Prince William Circuit Court date is Friday, May 7, and the Rivershore will remain open until then, Bauckman said.
“It’s frustrating that they would come back with those kinds of numbers, after all these years,” Bauckman said in an interview this week, “I’m not trying to hold them hostage. I’m not trying to slow them up. I’m just trying to see if what we have in our lease is legitimate or not. Then telling me it’s not legitimate just seems like they are trying to get me out of there.”
Bauckman announced in February that his landlord, CHR Properties, would not extend his lease of the restaurant, located on the shores of the Potomac River, which Bauckman has run for 28 years. It was supposed to close at the end of March, but after filing his lawsuit, Bauckman decided to stay open until his court date.
Bauckman and the Rivershore have received a tremendous amount of support since then. Patrons have flooded his restaurant nearly every weekend, bought hundreds of Tim’s Rivershore T-shirts and launched a Facebook page and website in an effort to keep his doors open.
Counterclaim alleges past-due rent, other damages
Bauckman entered into a lease agreement with Compass Harbor Station in May 2010 after selling its property to the company. Compass assigned its interest in the lease to CHR Properties in July 2011, court papers say.
CHR sent Tim’s Rivershore a default notice this past February due to unpaid rent and issued a 30-day notice to vacant the premises, according to court filings.
Bauckman said he paid the outstanding rent within five days and at the same time notified CHR that he was exercising his option to extend the lease for an additional two years.
Over the years, the parties amended the lease four times to extends its terms. The fifth and last lease amendment expired on Dec. 31. The crux of Bauckman’s legal argument is that the parties routinely amended the lease to add further extensions.
Tim’s Rivershore’s lawsuit further states that CHR never required written notice to extend any of the previous five lease amendments, so the restaurant continued to occupy the premises operating as if it extended the lease a sixth time, according to court papers.
CHR responded by asking the court to dismiss Bauckman’s complaint, arguing that the past series of lease amendments does not entitle Tim’s Rivershore to execute a new extension unilaterally.
CHR noted the parties would not have included an “option” to extend the lease if Tim’s Rivershore were automatically entitled to an extension. CHR also points out that because Tim’s Rivershore was in default on its rent, it could not have met the required conditions to extend the lease, according to court papers.
In its counterclaim, CHR is seeking both possession of the property and $491,343.88 in damages and unpaid rent. CHR acknowledged that Tim’s Rivershore paid some of the past due rent after it sent a default letter to the restaurant in February. But a deficit of $41,343.88 in rent and late fees remain, the court papers say. Bauckman denies he owes any back rent.
“We really don’t owe anything. That will all come to light. I don’t even know how they are saying that,” Bauckman said.
CHR also claims that Tim’s Rivershore “failed to maintain the property as required by the lease,” and that it will cost $250,000 to repair the damages. Bauckman also denies that claim.
“The only person who has ever done anything to the property is me. We’ve spent all kinds of money,” Bauckman said. “They haven’t done a thing. Depending on what they want to do with the property, I’m sure they could spend $250,000. They have high-in-the-sky hopes of changing some stuff.”
The building was built in 1970 and sustained major damage during Hurricane Isabel. It has been repaired since then but remains rough around the edges.
“They want to do the floor and straighten the building out. That’s not our fault. It’s just the building being the building. That’s the way it was. There is nothing we could have done to maintain the building.”
CHR alleges that Tim’s Rivershore was aware that CHR had a new tenant for the property for 2021, but intentionally failed to maintain the property and refused to vacate, thus interfering with the new lease and causing $200,000 in damages.
“That’s a crazy number,” Bauckman said.
According to Biddle Real Estate Ventures, which manages the property for CHR, a new lease has been signed for the property with a Virginia-based restaurant owner.
“We look forward to sharing an announcement in future of the new restaurant operator, [which is] expected to offer a casual dining experience that will serve the community for years to come,” Biddle said in a statement this week.
Bauckman said he has heard rumors about whom the new tenant might be, but has never been told by CHR.
“They’ve had people come down to take measurements, and we realized they were doing it for somebody else,” he said.
“All we wanted to do is get this in front of the court. I can’t imagine the court awarding them $500,000 [just] because we wanted to see if what was in our lease was legitimate,” Bauckman said. “If a judge doesn’t see there is any merit in our case, we will be out shortly after that. If the judge thinks there is merit, then we go [on] to argue further down the road.”
Cher Muzyk contributed to this report. Reach Aileen Streng at firstname.lastname@example.org