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Jax Daily Record Friday, Feb. 7, 201412:00 PM EST

Lawsuit: Whisky River evicted

by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

The Whisky River restaurant at The Markets of Town Center, which closed abruptly last month, was shut down because the operators had not paid the rent for six months and were evicted, according to a lawsuit filed in Duval County Circuit Court.

Representatives of the owners issued statements to several local news outlets last month saying they had decided to close the restaurant.

However, according to an amended version of the original complaint, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office “executed a Writ of Possession removing Tenant from, and delivering to Landlord, possession of the premises” on Jan. 17.

The landlord is Hines Global REIT Inc., a Houston-based real estate investment firm. Hines acquired The Markets of Town Center, the shopping area adjacent to the St. Johns Town Center, from Pinehill Markets Operating LLC in July 2013.

According to the lawsuit which was originally filed by Hines in December, the operators of Whisky River never made any of their required monthly rental payments after Hines took over the property. The restaurant owed a total of $226,312 in rent as of January.

Duval County Circuit Judge Lawrence Haddock entered a judgment Jan. 3 in favor of Hines, giving it possession of the premises because the restaurant owners were in default.

Hines’ amended complaint against the Whisky River owners said the landlord has been taking care of the premises since taking possession Jan. 17 and “has made and continues to make a good faith effort to re-let the premises on Tenant’s behalf in order to mitigate damages accruing to Landlord under the lease.”

Whisky River opened in 2010 to great fanfare, in part because of its association with NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has often been described as the owner or majority owner of Whisky River.

Earnhardt is not mentioned in the lawsuit filed by Hines. The lawsuit lists SJTC III LLC as the tenant holding the lease on the restaurant and Hammer Flo LLC as subtenant.

Florida corporate records show that SJTC and Hammer Flo both have the same address in Plantation under a registered owner called CT Corp. A representative of CT at the office in Plantation said the company just handles registration for corporations and is not otherwise affiliated with the businesses.

Whisky River still has a restaurant in operation in Charlotte, N.C. The website for the Charlotte restaurant has an email address for a corporate office, but there was no response to an email sent to that office Thursday.

Telephone calls to Bar Management Group, a Charlotte company listed in some news reports as the operator of Whisky River, were not answered Thursday.

Court records show no responses made by Whisky River’s owners to the lawsuit filed by Hines.

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