Bar brawl

Having taken their dispute from the curbside to the courts, and generated a fair amount of attention on local blogs and chat boards in the process, two popular Detroit establishments continue to drag on a turf battle.

Make that a blacktop battle.

The case involves John Linardos, owner of Motor City Brewing Works, and is filed against Traffic Jam and Snug restaurant, whose owners filed a countersuit. At issue: some pavement and who gets to park on it.

TJ's, located on the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Canfield Street, owns the fenced, lighted parking lot across the street to the north. Motor City Brewing, located in the back corner of the lot, owns the property it sits on, but its customers and employees must cross the TJ's parking lot to reach it.

An easement granting the brewery access through the parking lot was part of the agreement TJ's previous owner had with Linardos, according to court filings, and applies to the current owners, Scott Lowell and Carolyn Howard. But the existing easement doesn't grant parking for the brewery's employees and customers, says Brad Aldrich, TJ's attorney. "Patrons and employees have been violating the terms of the easement by parking on the lot and using the lot instead of just having to go through it," he says.

Last fall, TJ's owners posted a guard at the lot entrance and prevented Motor City customers and employees from parking there, the lawsuit says. Those actions were "retaliatory, illegal and constitute a public safety hazard," states the Motor City lawsuit, filed last October in Wayne County's Third Circuit Court.

The area, a mix of restaurants, commercial space and housing, has street parking available, but fenced and lit lots are preferable.

Aldrich says his client wants the brewery to succeed, explaining that it and other businesses in the area are making the once down-and-out Cass Corridor a destination spot for folks, improving business for everyone. But TJ's owns the lot, pays for its lighting and insurance and maintains it, so it's not fair to allow customers of other businesses in the area to park there, he says.

"I can say from my client's perspective that they have no desire to harm or shut down Motor City whatsoever. They actually would like another thriving business in such close proximity to theirs because it draws people to the area," Aldrich says.

Meanwhile, discussions and depositions are ongoing with some scheduled this week, the attorneys say.

"We're continuing to try and see if we can reach resolution," says Sam Herman, the brewery's attorney.

Let's hope so. We know this might not seem like the most earth-shattering news item, but as Detroit continues its efforts to make vibrant nightlife a part of its comeback, the city needs more places like this opening up, not closing down. So, to quote Rodney King, "Can we all get along?"

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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