An attorney for a Turkish immigrant who owns a downtown Salt Lake delicatessen slated for demolition to make way for a 14-story high rise said he wants his client on the winning end of a battle between David and Goliath.
"We hate to see the small businessman crushed by the big developer," said Lynn Spafford, who is representing Rod Abbassi, owner of The Petite Deli & Cafe at 105 E. First South.Spafford and an attorney for Broadway Centre Ltd., developers of a proposed high rise at the intersection of Broadway and State streets, agreed Friday in 3rd Circuit Court to schedule out-of-court talks to settle their differences.
Broadway is suing Abbassi, who leases his shop from a partner in Broadway Ltd., for two months' back rent. But Spafford said he will make a counterclaim for Abbassi in an effort to capture $22,500 Abbassi has invested into the deli.
Broadway intends to wreck Abbassi's shop and 10 others who lease from Commerce Properties Inc., to begin construction on the $24 million Broadway Centre in February 1989.
Abbassi told the Deseret News on Monday he sees the $22,500 as compensation for what he has sunk into the "American dream" of owning a small business.
According to court records, Abbassi seeks $8,000 in compensation for remodeling the small shop, $9,000 for equipment and $3,500 for "hard physical labor" put into his delicatessen.
"The American dream doesn't come easily; let's put it this way," he said.
If Abbassi wins the compensation money, he said he would reinvest it in another business or use it to return to school.
Broadway is hoping to secure a $925,000 tax-increment break from the Salt Lake City Council, which is the city's Redevelopment Agency board of directors. The RDA helps developers by offering tax incentives to build in redevelopment areas.
Several council members said they would stall their votes on the matter until Broadway and Abbassi reach an agreement.
"It puts us in a very difficult position of giving money to one business developer and putting the stranglehold on another," councilwoman Sydney Fonnesbeck said.
Broadway has "gotten the message" that an agreement must be reached before they can expect support from the RDA, Fonnesbeck said. But Broadway project manager Richard Nordland said the back-rent issue must first be resolved before the company is willing to discuss compensation for Abbassi. But a "middle ground" could be found, Nordland said.
In addition to a counterclaim seeking compensation, Spafford said he expects to file an amended complaint in 3rd Circuit Court charging Broadway fraudulently induced Abbassi into signing a lease for his shop.
Abbassi said he was told that when he rented the shop in February, he could stay there for 10 years. Nordland points to an "escape clause" in the lease that says tenants can be evicted at any time with reasonable notice.