For a month, it looked like the city of Columbus was getting ready to serve up legal action against Detour American Grille & Bar in The Commons. That hasn’t happened yet.
Meanwhile, the new downtown restaurant continues to offer salads, sandwiches, steak and shrimp — and other menu treats — while planning a grand-opening celebration Saturday, almost seven weeks after opening under a new name.
The city and Greenhouse Restaurant LLC, the restaurant’s owners, have been at odds over the lease for the space, which city officials believe requires a Scotty’s-branded restaurant. The company operated a Scotty’s Burger Joint in the public building for about a year before ending its management agreement with the Scotty’s chain on Dec. 30.
On Jan. 28, the Columbus Redevelopment Commission agreed to seek a declaratory judgment on whether the lease was breached by the change. But as of Wednesday, the city had yet to file court documents seeking such a decision.
If you go
What: Detour American Grille & Bar grand-opening celebration
Where: The Commons, 310 Washington St.
Events: 11 a.m., magicians, face painting for children, free food samples; 7:30 p.m., Indiana-Iowa basketball game followed by a performance by The Woomblies band.
Mayor Kristen Brown said the city is required to follow certain steps in the event of a breached lease, and those have been approved by the Indiana State Board of Accounts. If the court decides the lease is breached, the city plans to seek requests for family restaurant proposals for the space in The Commons, she said.
“We are just trying to do the right thing,” Brown said. “The lease is very specific; the exclusive use is for a Scotty’s restaurant. The community was sold on the idea of the brand and the regional draw of Scotty’s. ...
“We believe that is a material breach of the contract. ... If there is a material breach of a contract on public property that is being leased, we have to follow state law which says we have to go through another open process,” the mayor said.
Her hope is that Greenhouse submits a proposal for the Detour restaurant, Brown said.
There has been no contact with Greenhouse or its owners since the city decided on its direction, Brown said.
The mayor said she did not know why the judgment request has yet to be filed and did not have a timeline for when that might happen. Kelly Benjamin, the city attorney, said by email that she cannot discuss the city’s legal strategy in the case.
Mark Maddox, co-owner of Greenhouse’s parent MSCB Group, said he believed business had been hurt a bit by the dispute with the city and subsequent news coverage. However, January and February are usually the worst months of the year in the restaurant business, and he expected business to pick up as the weather warms.
Maddox is looking forward to Saturday’s grand-opening event.
“Our strategy there was to give it a couple of months to get the conversion from Scotty’s to Detour dialed in,” he said.
Maddox said he is pleased with his company’s relationship with Detour Franchising Inc., which operates the restaurant for Greenhouse.
“It is a good relationship so far,” Maddox said. “It was really tested by the fact that we gave them about two weeks to close the Scotty’s and reopen as a Detour. That was kind of a trial by fire.”
Company officials said many of the restaurant’s previous problems with the city, including late rent and utility bills, were the results of the previous management company. Maddox said the restaurant is now current with its lease payments to the city.
The Jan. 10 meeting of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission was packed with Detour employees who pleaded with city officials to allow the restaurant to continue operating. Most of the employees from the Scotty’s Burger Joint have stayed on through the transition to Detour, Maddox said.
Maddox also said he has had no contact with city officials.
“We have never planned to sue anybody. We just want to sell food,” Maddox said.