Local eateries file dueling lawsuits

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September 2, 2010

11:08 PM

Legal disputes between Sal’s by Victor owner Victor Minichiello and Scala’s Restaurant and Pizza owners Georgia and Hassem Salih escalated last week, when the Salihs filed a counter-suit against Minichiello.

The lawsuit claims Minichiello failed to pay rent and damaged the temporary property he rented from the Salihs after Minichiello’s original restaurant was destroyed in a July 2009 fire. The suit does not specify the amount owed by Minichiello, but is asking for $155,000 for damages.

The lawsuit asserts that Minichiello damaged parts of the electrical, telephone, computer and fire suppression systems after promising in the lease to leave the premises clean. The Salihs claim that these damages were responsible for the restaurant’s inability to pass an inspection by the City of Williamsburg, which delayed the Salih’s plans to open a pizza shop in the building on Richmond Road.
Minichiello denied these claims.

“I improved the place, got all the documentation, all the rent was paid,” Minichiello said. “I sued them, they sued me, but they have no grounds. I paid everything. I did everything according to the lease.”

The countersuit is in response to an earlier $1 million lawsuit, filed by Minichiello against the Salihs, for installing a sign advertising their new restaurant, Scala’s Restaurant and Pizza.

Minichiello claims that the new restaurant would violate the non-compete agreement in his lease, which prohibited the Salihs from opening another Italian-themed restaurant within six months after Minichiello left the premises.

“I needed to protect my investment,” Minichiello said. “I don’t want people to be confused.”

Last November, the Salihs leased their restaurant, Scala’s Pizzeria Taverna, to Minichiello while his restaurant was being rebuilt in the Taverna, to Minichiello, while his restaurant was being rebuilt in the Williamsburg Shopping Center.

“It was a good deal for them, and it was a good deal for me,” Minichiello said of the original agreement.

The arrangement, initiated by Georgia Salih’s brother, Black Angus Grille owner Bobby Mageras, was originally a friendly one.

Since their own restaurant burned down in 1999, the Salihs were sympathetic to Minichiello’s cause.

“That fire was the worst thing we’ve ever been though,” Georgia Salih told the Williamsburg-Yorktown Daily last November. “We want to be an example. We’re two competitive businesses that have joined forces in a terrible economy.”

Despite the recent countersuit, Minichiello said he remains positive, and on multiple occasions has expressed interest in dropping his suit.

“I think in the end, everything’s going to die out,” he said. “Everything is fine, and everything hopefully is going to be taken care of soon. If it were up to me, I would have dropped it.”

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