Nick’s Inner Harbor Seafood to Close at Cross Street Market

| November 19, 2018 | 0 Comments

After more than 45 years at Cross Street Market, Nick’s Inner Harbor Seafood is closing. A Baltimore City Circuit judge ruled on Friday that Nick’s is no longer operating under a valid lease. Nick’s and Cross Street Market developer and operator Caves Valley Partners (CVP) reached a settlement today that will allow Nick’s to stay at the market until January 11th. Nick’s will close operations after January 7th, and it will use the final four days to move its equipment from the market.

Nick’s had a five-year option on its lease which ran from 2013 until May 31, 2018. Nick’s was eligible for a final five-year option from 2018 to 2023 but did not properly execute this extension in writing, according to the Circuit Court Chief Judge Wanda Keys Heard. Nick’s and its attorney Peter Prevas argued that they verbally agreed to the extension and that the five-year extension from 2013 to 2018 was also for 2018 to 2023.

Judge Heard said in her written decision that “the lease is clear and precise and consistent with Maryland law in many respects. It does not lend itself to the misrepresentation and odd interference argued by the Defendant.”

Nick’s lease began with the Baltimore Public Market Corporation (BPMC), but the building was taken over by CVP in January 2017. CVP said that they met with Nick’s multiple times after the lease expired, and said that a five-year extension needed to involve a plan to upgrade Nick’s space to the standards of the rest of the market. There is a clause in the lease that with any renewal, the landlord can require the tenant to make improvements that are commensurate with the rest of the market.

Prevas said a plan for this never came into play, and that Nick’s was under the impression they were under a valid lease.

The rest of the 31,800 sq. ft. Cross Street Market is currently closed and under construction as it undergoes a renovation by CVP.

When Nick’s became a holdover tenant after May 31st, CVP raised Nick’s rent from $9,439.17/month to $18,878.34/month as part of a month-to-month lease. Nick’s continued to pay the rental amount of $9,439.17/month. Judge Heard ruled CVP was also owed the increased rent amount since June 1st. As part of the CVP and Nick’s settlement today, Nick’s will not owe the increased rental amount dating from June 1st to January 11th.

CVP attempted to terminate Nick’s lease in January 2017 over health code violations, but the issues were resolved in the following months.

Today, spoke with Nick’s co-owner Kwang Lee, who said he was very relieved a settlement was reached over the rental amount and that he could continue to stay open for a little bit longer, but that he was disappointed that his business would be closing. “I didn’t expect this,” he said.

Lee noted there was some confusion and that some deadlines were missed while trying to extend the lease.

Lee has not yet figured out what is next for his business. He owns a seven-day beer/wine license and all the equipment at Nick’s which includes kitchen equipment, walk-in coolers, refrigerators, keg boxes, televisions, and nautical-themed decorations and pictures. He’s not yet sure where all the stuff will go after January 11th.

Lee said he is still paying a business loan from when he and co-owner Jae “Sunshine” Lee purchased the business more than 10 years ago.

When asked if he’d try to relocate his business, Kwang said he was not sure and that he has not looked at any additional spaces in the neighborhood as his first focus was to stay at Cross Street Market. He said if he does open a new location, he wants it to be a little bit smaller and more manageable.

Nick’s has 20 employees, including bartender Kimberly Travers who has worked at Nick’s for 21 years. She said her and fellow longtime bartender Lisa Purisima would absolutely be on board for a new location.

Regarding the closure, Travers said it “really sucks” but that she is proud of how Lee fought to keep his business. “This was his dream job.” she added.  She also noted that business has slowed in recent months due to confusion if Nick’s was still open, construction noise, and a construction wall right next to Nick’s which prevented foot traffic.

CVP is currently undertaking an $8-million renovation of Cross Street Market. The first phase, which will start at the Light Street entrance of the block-long market that runs from Light St. to S. Charles St., is expected to open in January. The rest of the project, excluding Nick’s 3,800+ sq. ft. space at the S. Charles St. entrance, is expected to be completed next year. CVP acquired a new liquor license for Cross Street Market.

CVP partner Arsh Mirmiran said a renovation to the Nick’s space would begin soon after it is vacant. He noted he has been approached by multiple interested restaurant groups that knew the space was in litigation and could become available. Mirmiran said CVP will soon advertise the space in search of a new tenant.

BPMC still owns Cross Street Market and is funding $2 million of the $8 million redevelopment cost. The initial term of the agreement is for 15 years with seven renewal periods of five years each for a potential total term of 50 years. Under the management agreement, CVP is entitled to generate revenue from the operation of the market. Allocated revenue will fund the following: $10,000 per month ($120,000 per year) to BPMC as a Priority Payment; monthly payment to CVP’s lender; an annual amount equal to 8% of CVP’s equity contribution; and 50/50 profit-sharing between BPMC and CVP.

Read’s articles detailing the different aspects of the Cross Street Market redevelopment here.

The Light Street entrance 

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