Thursday, April 13, 2017


For nearly 10 years, St. James Gate owner John Meade has been trying to get a sidewalk cafe in front of his Maplewood Village eatery. 

But one roadblock along the way has continued to stop it: his landlord.

First, property owner Glenn Sussman and his company, 167 Maplewood LLC, was able to block it under a Township ordinance that required sidewalk cafe owners to receive approval from their landlords before putting out the tables and chairs.

Meade said Sussman always refused to allow it.

But the Township Committee changed the law so that the owner did not have to approve it unless he or she owned the sidewalk, which is not the case in most parts of Maplewood Village.

It only requires Township approval, which Meade received last July. But Sussman objected, claiming he owned the sidewalk and thereby had the right to block it. 

Meade appealed that, saying the Township owned the sidewalk, not Sussman. Township Administrator Joseph Manning researched the ownership rights for months, going back more than 50 years and found no proof that the township owned the sidewalk. He stated at least four feet of it closest to the building is owned by Sussman.

When asked what he found, Manning emailed:

The Township did two title searches, one was for the date that Maplewood was incorporated and the other was for a date prior to that when we were part of South Orange. In both cases there was no evidence that the township owned the property from the curb to the building. Without evidence that we own that area of land, we cannot give St. James Gate the permission to have a sidewalk café. 

Joseph F. Manning 
Business Administrator

Meade claims he was given no proof of the ownership determination, "I have no idea, I never got that answer." 

Meade also claims Sussman told him he would allow the sidewalk cafe if Meade paid up to $3,000 per month, then $800 per month. 

He then said Sussman offered to allow it if Meade just paid his back legal fees, nearly $6,000. Meade's response: "It's absurd to begin with, I'm not going to do that. He shouldn't be charging me, everyone wants it, the town wants it, the customers want it."

Meade added, "I've had three lawyers over the past few years, I've spent $5,000; $6,000; $7,000 on legal fees." He would not disclose his rent.

Sussman referred inquiries to his attorney, E. Gilman Slingerland, who provided a copy of a letter he sent to the Township Monday explaining his client's status. It states, in part:

Knowing that there was support for outdoor dining, I offered the tenant a lease starting early this Spring and ending late Fall. This lease would test whether or not the functioning of the outdoor café adversely impacted the residential apartment units located above the sidewalk café. This lease would also permit the tenant to determine if offering such outdoor dining would increase the revenue of the St. James Gate and what level of rent would be appropriate based on actual operational results.

This offer was made without payment of any rent to the landlord.

Tenant would be required to reimburse Landlord for the legal fees and expenses involved in opposing the earlier ABC application.

Mr. Meade has rejected this offer and did not enter into negotiations with the landlord on the outdoor café lease terms.

For this reason, there will be no outdoor café dining in front of St. James Gate in year 2017.

See the entire letter HERE.

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