An East Boston man who lives right above the now closed Maverick House Tavern on Maverick Street at Bremen Street, says he is getting it ready to re-open next month as a Latino-themed restaurant with consulting help from another local restaurant operator - who could take over as the place's manager if he works out.
Not so fast, though, the Licensing Board and his ex-wife said today.
John Tyler and his ex, Melissa Morganite, have been feuding over the restaurant, its "neighborhood" liquor license - which they can't legally sell - and the small apartment building the restaurant is in since at least 2016, when they began non-amicable divorce proceedings.
Although their divorce is final, the disposition of their assets - primarily the restaurant and building - remain subject to proceedings in state probate court and what are currently three separate suits in Suffolk Superior Court. In at least one case, the ex-couple has agreed to hire a "forensic accountant" to try to figure out who owns what, Scott Adams, attorney for the LLC the two still jointly own, said.
Tyler, at least, could soon face a fourth lawsuit, from two people who say they paid him last year to take over the restaurant and lease the space but then he locked him out of the space, although Tyler's personal attorney says there was never a rental agreement, while the lawyer for the LLC says he is holding onto the money they paid but can't disburse it because the two people owe money to various subcontractors, so somebody's going to have to sue to have a judge decide who gets what. Also, Tyler and Morganite disagree on their shares of the LLC - he says he owns 89% of it, she says he only owns 50%.
Now sprinkle in allegations of harassment and threats between Tyler and the two people - and now the man whom Tyler is employing as a consultant, who once was a partner with the two people, oh, and the man who briefly ran the place with Morganite, who charges Tyler locked him out one day and wouldn't let him get his personal property back - but whom Tyler's personal attorney, Andrew Upton, says broke into the closed restaurant space and tried to remove furniture and then "assaulted Mr. Tyler" after he was essentially let go for what Upton called "sketchy business practices."
"This is very confusing," board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce said, noting today's hearing was not the first the board has held over the years to determine who owns the restaurant, which was open until the start of the pandemic. The board is involved in part because the restaurant has a "restricted" neighborhood liquor license, which means that, unlike other liquor licenses, Tyler, or the ex-couple's LLC, can't sell it, but instead would have to give it back to the city should the restaurant close for good or change hands. The board is also required to ensure liquor licenses are only held by people with the appropriate "character and fitness."
Upton said Tyler and his consultant, Andres Jaramillo, who owns Perros Paisas, which sells Colombian-style hot dogs on Bennington Street, are very close to finishing renovations on what would be a new Latino restaurant. He said Tyler showed off plans for the new restaurant in a meeting last week with East Boston Main Streets and aides to state Rep. Adrian Madaro, City Councilor Gabriela Coletta, state Sen. Lydia Edwards and the city Office of Neighborhood Services.
Because Tyler has been burned in past restaurant deals, he would open the place next month as manager, with Jaramillo as his consultant. But should Jaramillo work out, he said Tyler would look to sign a management deal with Jaramillo, who would then effectively run the restaurant full time, with the current LLC maintaining its ownership.
Claudia Sierra told the board that she, Jaramillo and a third man originally put in a bid to basically take over the restaurant. She alleges that Tyler took close to $50,000 from them and would charge them $8,100 a month in rent, but told them they had to structure the deal to make it look like Tyler still owned the place so that they could keep the liquor license - even though, she claims, they paid $6,000 for the license and a related entertainment license. "We are not interested in working for Mr. Tyler," but instead wanted to own their own restaurant.
But she says Jaramillo grew bossy and argumentative and that one day, Tyler barred them from the space, after they had spent considerable sums to renovate it.
Upton said she was lying, that, in fact, Tyler had to lock them out because they weren't paying subcontractors, who were coming to Tyler for payment and that Tyler never offered them a lease but instead a management deal in which he would retain ownership.
Morganite sided with Sierra, saying that one of the few communications she got from the LLC was specifically about "rent" Sierra and her other partner would be paying.
The board could discuss what to do about the liquor license, if anything, at a meeting on Thursday.