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Owner of frequently closed Maverick Square restaurant faces new lawsuit, but this time not by his ex-wife

Two of the three owners of a venture aimed at re-opening the oft-shuttered restaurant at 154 Maverick St. are now suing restaurant and building owner John Tyler, alleging that at a minimum he owes them $250,000 for all the work they put into the place, which they never actually opened as a restaurant, plus their initial deposit.

In their lawsuit, filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court, Claudia Sierra and John Ortiz charge that Tyler misled them for months and offered to essentially sell them the space's liquor license, even though legally he cannot sell it because it's a restricted "neighborhood" license that would have to be returned to the Boston Licensing Board should he go out of business. The board, itself tired of the long periods of the restaurant just being an empty space, has set a hearing for the end of September to revoke the liquor license if Tyler doesn't get the space running by then, so it can give the valuable license to somebody else.

Tyler, his now former wife and the LLC they set up to operate a restaurant in the former city welfare building they won at bid - and in which Tyler now lives - have been embroiled in a series of lawsuits against each other in recent years.

Sierra and Ortiz originally partnered with East Boston restaurant operator Andres Jaramillo on the Paisas Restaurant Group bid to lease the space in the fall of 2022. Sierra and Ortiz and Jaramillo had a falling out and Jaramillo withdrew from the partnership, but they continued to work with Tyler to open a restaurant.

Sierra and Ortiz allege they put in several hundred hours of work apiece starting in late 2022 to turn the empty space into a restaurant again - they said that despite Tyler's promises, the space was in no shape to serve food, and in fact, failed at least one ISD inspection. As an example:

Despite having operated a bar out of the Premises previously, there was no sink, no dishwasher, no ice sink and no soda gun.

Still, the two said they began paying Tyler $8,100 a month in rent in December, 2022, as they worked to get a working restaurant ready. And while that was happening, Tyler was trying to get them to change the contract they had yet to sign, from a lease to a deal in which they would work for him - yet still pay him monthly rent.

Despite Maverick's advertisement that it was looking for an entity to sign a long-term lease on the Premises, all of a sudden Maverick was now asking for payments in addition to regular rent (categorized as "bonuses"), opening an additional bank account for Paisas under Maverick as the primary operating account for the restaurant and providing Tyler with personal information for all employees.

Maverick also made representations that Paisas would get paid a "management fee" through its payroll.

In essence, the agreement Maverick was now seeking to enter into with Paisas was that Paisas would be an employee of Maverick, but would also pay rent to Maverick.

Finally, in April, they at first withheld their rent, then paid it after, they say, Tyler promised his lawyer would contact theirs to finalize the contract. But after depositing the check - and getting word they had passed health and occupancy inspections, they charge, Tyler changed the locks. After they went to police, the two said, he agreed to let them in to retrieve personal belongings - but when they arrived, they found all of their stuff dumped outside, ruined.

And then, they continued, Tyler reached a deal with Jaramillo and those two, taking advantage of all the work Sierra and Ortiz did, opened a Latin-themed restaurant in September - which lasted just three months before closing.

The suit formally charges Tyler with breach of contract, taking money and property he doesn't deserve, unjust enrichment, negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent inducement and "commercial extortion" under the state's fair-business laws. In addition to their deposit, the two are seeking treble damages plus punitive damages.

The minimum $250,000 they are seeking includes a $28,600 initial deposit they say they gave Tyler with the understanding, in a letter of intent, they would get it back if the restaurant never opened.

Tyler has until Aug. 18 to answer the complaint, according to the court docket.

PDF icon paisas-complaint.pdf1011.13 KB


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