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Deadline passes, no Snappy payment

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The fate of a downtown eatery is now in the hands of city officials.

Tuesday’s deadline passed without  the Snappy Tomato Pizza restaurant in The Commons making a payment toward the $27,238 in back rent, late fees and utility payments it owes the city.

The city did receive a response Tuesday from the attorney representing Larken & Co. LLC, owner of the Snappy Tomato franchise, said Stan Gamso, attorney for the Columbus Redevelopment Commission, a six-member city board that acts as leasing agent for The Commons.

Gamso said that since the restaurant operator’s response was created in anticipation of litigation, the correspondence would be kept confidential until a final resolution of the matter, as allowed under Indiana law.

The restaurant had gone through all of 2013 without making monthly $1,500 payments on its lease.

Snappy Tomato Pizza was open for business as usual Tuesday, however.

The commission will need to decide whether to consider repayment proposals, eviction or other options, Gamso said last week.

Frank Jerome, a member of Columbus City Council and the commission, said he would like the commission to evict the tenant.

Last week, Jerome urged the commission to set a meeting as soon as possible after the payment deadline to decide how to proceed.

Mayor Kristen Brown, who last week appointed herself to the redevelopment commission and was chosen as this year’s commission president, said at last week’s meeting that the panel should give the tenant the benefit of the doubt regarding the Tuesday payment deadline.

Brown said she was in favor of scheduling a discussion, perhaps at a special meeting of the redevelopment commission.

Jerome said Tuesday he was not interested in a payment agreement, assuming that a tenant who has not paid in a year is unlikely to be able to make extra payments going forward.

“It should have been stopped immediately. Just close them down,” Jerome said. “The taxpayers get the benefit of the doubt. He does not.”

Jerome said restaurant owner Tim Larken has a personal guarantee on that payment.

“I wanted to have the meeting the day after (the deadline) and proceed to put a lien against him and everything that he has. I couldn’t get anyone else on that board to stand up for the taxpayers,” Jerome said.

Brown has said the lease payments from The Commons restaurants help offset the taxpayers’ subsidy for the facility. This year, the city is expecting to pay about $1.3 million from property taxes and income taxes to operate the facility and make payment on the bonds sold to construct it.

Brown wrote in an email Tuesday to The Republic that she had no additional comments on Snappy Tomato and that the timelines and options were discussed in the public meeting.

The dispute with Snappy Tomato is the second major disruption among restaurant tenants in The Commons.

The city and owners of the former Scotty’s Burger Joint and Detour American Grille and Bar had disagreements over unpaid rent and utilities and the company’s change of name and theme for the restaurant, before Detour left overnight in March.

That vacant space is expected to be filled this spring by an Irish/British-themed restaurant called Jordy McTaggart’s Grill and Pub.

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