Building owner sues Downtown Bistro over unpaid rent

LANCASTER – The building owner of Lancaster’s Downtown Bistro is suing the restaurant for allegedly not paying its rent since November. 

A complaint was filed through the Fairfield County Common Pleas Court on Jan. 8 against Timothy “Mike” Cotter and The Downtown Bistro over an alleged breach of contract. 

In the complaint, The Studios at 123 – listed as the plaintiff and owned by Thomas Fortin – dissolved the lease agreement they had with The Downtown Bistro and its owner Timothy “Mike” Cotter, who are named as the defendants along with Nancy Bower. 

Court documents use The Downtown Bistro and Main Street Bistro interchangeably to identify the defense, referring to the restaurant’s former name. 

Cotter first opened the restaurant in 2015 under the Main Street Bistro name before moving to its current location at 123 North Broad Street. 

According to the complaint, Fortin officially terminated the lease agreement effective Dec. 27, 2019. However, The Downtown Bistro was not closed until the week of Feb. 10.

The complaint alleges Cotter and The Downtown Bistro failed to make its monthly rent payments between November 2019 and January 2020, in the amount of $7,416.66 per month. 

The lease agreement states the tenant – The Downtown Bistro – was to pay the minimum base rental or 8.5% of all sales for that month, whichever was higher. 

The complaint alleges that, as of Dec. 10, 2019, Fortin and his business were owed $56,458.13, and “as a result of their breach of the lease, [The Downtown Bistro] owe to the Plaintiff the amount of rent through the end of the lease in the amount of $311,499.72.” 

In total, Fortin is asking for $367,957.85, covering “late fees, prejudgment interest, reasonable attorney fees, and the cost of this proceeding.”

Fortin issued a statement to Destination Downtown Lancaster on Friday regarding the future of The Downtown Bistro building. 

“We are continuing with our commitment to greatly improve this landmark property,” Fortin wrote. “We plan to complete our remodeling and open the boutique Hotel Lancaster, restaurant and cafe as soon as possible.”

The property owners filed a motion Wednesday for default judgement against the Bistro, stating the defense did not offer a response to the initial claim within the allotted 28-day period beginning Jan. 11. 

Court documents show the defense – listed as ‘The Main Street Bistro’ – had been issued a summons through the Fairfield County Common Pleas Court for Feb. 7. 

In a request for a hearing filed that same day, Cotter wrote he and his party misunderstood when the initial hearing would take place and apologized for his absence. 

“We arrived today [Feb. 7] promptly at 3 p.m. and my heart sank as I realized what had happened, how badly I had screwed up, and how many others it would affect [adversely],” Cotter wrote. “Please allow me this last opportunity to save what has been clawed and scratched and worked so hard for, by countless participants and [illegible] for 5 years now.”

The Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office responded to The Downtown Bistro Feb. 12 to serve a writ of restitution.

Cotter could not be reached for comment. 

Published by Logan Weaver

News Reporter and Graphic Designer

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