Saturday, June 5, 2010

Homeless Again

Adrian DeStefano has given LDNA a home since the Revolving Museum closed and we appreciate her generosity very much. As most have heard it looks as though we wil be losing our home again.
Story from SUN:

Landlord presses downtown Lowell cafe to close over debt
By Christopher Scott,

LOWELL -- A downtown landlord has told the owner of Caffe Paradiso that he'll forget about more than $100,000 he claims he's owed if the popular eatery and bar closes, moves out by July 31 and leaves all the equipment behind.

The offer was made late Thursday afternoon by Lowell lawyer Edward Moloney, who represents Firehouse Associates LLC, to another Lowell lawyer, George Theodorou, who represents Caffe Paradiso owner Antoinetta DeStefano. The cafe is located in a former firehouse at the corner of Palmer and Middle streets.

The offer came a day before The Sun was planning to publish a story stating Firehouse Associates was seeking to evict Caffe Paradiso while demanding $100,036 in rent and "other charges." Firehouse completed eviction paperwork in Lowell District Court and a June 24 hearing date had been set. Theodorou said DeStefano, of Stoneham, is considering the Firehouse offer. The property manager, Fred Faust, declined to discuss the matter and referred inquiries to Moloney. Elkin McCallum, who the Secretary of State's Office lists as the resident agent of Firehouse Associates LLC, also referred inquiries to Moloney. Moloney did not return messages left at his office and home this week. McCallum, however, did discuss the matter briefly.
"It's in legal hands now. Bottom line is Fred (Faust) is working with them," McCallum said. "I'm not privy to all the gory details, but her lease does expire July 31. At the end of the day, it appears she is throwing in the towel because if she had the money, she would pay." But Theodorou said DeStefano's monthly $2,750 rent is current. Theodorou said the disagreement is centered on "common charges," or fees a landlord charges tenants for upkeep and general maintenance of hallways, stairwells and elevators. Theodorou doesn't deny his client owes a common-charge amount. However, he said it's not $100,000. He declined to state a specific amount.

DeStefano speaks very little English, said Theodorou. Her daughter, Adrianna DeStefano, who manages the business, declined to comment. Adrianna's brother, Oscar, was the public face of the business until his death in 2007. Antoinetta DeStefano does have a seven-year lease that expires July 31. Terms of the original lease called for common-area payments. However, Firehouse never sent a bill, Theodorou said. In a bill dated March 5, Firehouse lists more than a dozen invoices, each totaling $4,155, for a grand total of $100,036. Theodorou, however, said the bill is lacking in specifics and documentation. Furthermore, he explained, with Caffe Paradiso occupying a ground-level unit overlooking the cobblestoned intersection of Middle and Palmer streets, DeStefano shouldn't have to pay expenses related to the elevator or upstairs hallways and stairways because the eatery doesn't use them.

"At the end of each year, the landlord was supposed to bill the client for common-area charges," Theodorou said. "That never happened and now the landlord is trying to recreate the record."
Theodorou said DeStefano has also spent about $500,000 of her money to improve the space with such items as wood finishings and granite countertops.

McCallum, a successful businessman in the textile industry, acquired the building on May 1, 2000, for $500,000 in a cash transaction from Gilbert Campbell and Charles Matses.
In December of that year, McCallum transferred ownership of the building from Connector Park LLC to Firehouse Associates LLC for $100. According to the secretary of state's website, the business address for both LLCs is 100 Vesper Executive Park, Tyngsboro, which has long been McCallum's corporate office site. More recently, on July 10, 2008, a mechanic's lien for $68,239 was placed on the property by Leclaire Roofing and Weatherproofing Inc., of 830 Livingston St., Tewksbury. That lead to a civil complaint in Middlesex Superior Court, pitting Leclaire against Firehouse. A resolution to that lawsuit is pending, said a lawyer for Leclaire, William Gramer of Tewksbury. McCallum insisted that he no longer has a financial interest in the building and said the secretary of state's website "is wrong." McCallum said he sold his interest to David Pickul, a doctor who has an office in the building, three years ago. He said Pickul is now the resident agent. But the same document that lists McCallum as the resident agent lists Pickul as the manager. Pickul did not return a message left at his office this week. Furthermore, Pickul's name does not appear on any records related to the building at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell.

Besides Caffe Paradiso and Pickul's office, the three-story, 18,000-square-foot building is also home to several other business interests, including Eastern Minerals.

Caffe Paradiso was last in the news in early January. At the time, Adrianna DeStefano squashed rumors swirling around the city that the business would close. "We are not going anywhere," DeStefano said in a Jan. 9 Sun story. She added the 6-year-old cafe scaled back hours due to the winter season and poor economy.

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