WILKES-BARRE — A contractor who renovated the South Side Bistro, which abruptly closed in January when its owner returned to France, filed a mechanics lien Tuesday in Luzerne County Court seeking money he is owed.
But attorneys anticipate issues as litigation moves forward.
Jerry Brown, doing business as JB General Contractors, says he is due $16,424 for renovations he performed inside 264-266 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, which opened as South Side Bistro in October.
Brown signed a contract with Isabelle Garcia, who operated South Side Bistro under a lease with the building owner Sam Johnson.
Garcia abruptly closed the restaurant and returned to her native country, France, in January, leaving Johnson with a “pile of unpaid bills,” said Johnson’s attorney, James Haggerty.
“This woman left a trail of unpaid bills, and Mr. Johnson was taken advantage of,” Haggerty said. “He is not responsible for her unpaid bills.”
Brown, through his attorney, Joseph G. Albert, filed the mechanics lien on March 28, and an amended lien on Tuesday adding allegations that Johnson had Garcia sign the contract with his client.
A mechanics lien is a security interest in the title to property.
According to the amended lien, Brown renovated the first floor of what would become South Side Bistro after a series of proposals submitted by Johnson and Garcia. The contract was negotiated through Johnson, who acted as Garcia’s agent, the lien alleges.
The lien alleges Johnson directed Garcia to sign the contract with Brown, and in return, Garcia’s rent to Johnson was reduced.
Brown’s final bill totaled $20,424 with full payment due Nov. 30. Only $4,000 was paid to Brown by the end of November, leaving an unpaid debt of $16,424, the lien says.
Albert said he anticipates an issue with the contract that is missing Johnson’s signature.
“It was raised after the first lien was filed,” Albert said. “It’s a novel question whether or not to litigate it.”
Garcia opened South Side Bistro, a French restaurant, on Oct. 14 and closed it in January, when she returned to France. Johnson said in January that he invested $2.5 million into renovating the entire building that includes 16 apartments.
Haggerty said Garcia left “a pile of unpaid bills,” which included bills for equipment and food.