A decisive tilt in the Battle of Fauna, Jon Svazas’ chi-chi Bank Street beanery.
The long-suffering chef just wrapped up his first year in business, amid an extended legal hair-puller with his landlord/nemesis, Ahmed Abou-Gabal, supremo of Velika Realty Inc.
They signed the lease on 425-427 Bank Street in May 2012, with Fauna’s opening slated for that October. But Svazas didn’t sling his first plate of elk carpaccio until September 2014, nearly two years and some $750,000 later.
Over that period, Ahmed ragged the puck on vital repairs, changed the locks, cut the power and simply wiped his ass with at least seven court orders.
Svazas and his legalist, Craig O’Brien of Nelligan O’Brien Payne, brought the hammer down in May, seeking to end Abou-Gamal’s chronic delays and obstructions with motions to, among other things, declare him in contempt for the court orders he’d ignored, prevent the sale of the building, strike his statement of defence, and even, “alternatively, an Order that the defendants be fined or Mr. Abou-Gabal be imprisoned.”
Of course, Ahmed missed the June filing deadline for affidavits, skipped out on two cross-examination dates and then showed up in August with a brand new legalist, Christopher Spiteri (Spiteri & Ursulak). An adjournment of several weeks was requested while the new boy got up to speed. Superior Court Justice Paul Kane gave him five days, and then knocked his dick in the dirt:
“Compliance with court Orders…is not optional,” sayeth da judge in an endorsement released Sept. 15. “The defendants’ repeated non-compliance of court Orders demonstrates their disregard of the legal process.”
“The defendants’ conduct over 28 months necessitating repeated court appearances in a case managed proceeding to address a relatively limited commercial dispute constitutes an unacceptable expenditure of limited public and judicial resources.”
Kane kyboshed Abou-Gabal’s statement of defence and so he proceeds to trial strapped down and lubed up, the only real question just how much this is going cost him.
Svazas can be expected to demand damages equal to the profits he would have made in 2012 and 2013, based on earnings from the past year, which Frank hears are in excess of $500,000.
This puts Svazas in a ticklish spot. The more wildly successful he’s been since he opened, the worse he can stick it to Abou-Gabal. But what if his clientele get wind of just how much he’s charging for those pricey small plates?
The courthouse debacle is just another reversal of fortune for poor Ahmed. Last October, a house at 1934 Stagecoach Road in Greely blew up and burned down in the middle of the night. Witnesses saw two cars speeding away from the conflagration and the Ottawa police’s crack arson team was instantly on the case (so, er, how’s that going, boys?!—ed.)
The owner of the pile in question, encumbered at the time with a certificate of pending legislation, a $450,000 charge and a construction lien? Why, Velika Realty, Ahmed Gabal, prop.
What grievance anyone could have had against the highly respected area businessman is a mystery to Frank.