Overdue rent lawsuit may force out popular downtown Naples restaurant The Jolly Cricket

720 5th Avenue South
Naples, FL
Phone: 239-304-9460

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New Forest Holdings owes Ingram Building Co. $153,000 in rent dating to Sept. 1, 2010, according to the suit.

— It’s been open since 2009, but a lawsuit filed recently in Collier County could jeopardize the future of a popular downtown Naples restaurant.

Ingram Building Co., a Naples-based company that owns the Ingram Building at 720 Fifth Ave. S., filed suit in May against New Forest Holdings, the Naples-based company that operates the Jolly Cricket, 720 Fifth Ave. S.

The company, owned by Tony and Jane Wood, hasn’t paid rent for several months, occupied a unit adjacent to the building they were renting without a lease and etched the windows of the Jolly Cricket without the property owner’s permission, the suit contends.

Ingram Building Co. officials, according to the suit, are looking to evict the restaurant and eject them from the adjacent unit. The lawsuit also asks that New Forest Holdings pay for damages — like back rent and utilities — and attorneys’ fees.

Jeffrey Fridkin, the attorney representing Ingram Building Co., couldn’t be reached for comment on the suit.

“In a nutshell we have a dispute between the landlord and the tenant,” said Andrew Reiss, the attorney representing New Forest Holdings. “It’s just as simple as that.”

New Forest Holdings owes Ingram Building Co. $153,000 in rent dating to Sept. 1, 2010, according to the suit.

But Reiss, in a May 26 response to the original suit, said the two companies “mutually agreed to modify the provisions of the lease concerning the payment of rent for certain months and the amount due for other months.”

“I think the lawsuit has some allegations in it that the tenant hasn’t been paying rent,” Reiss said. “We disagree with that.”

Reiss said the two companies agreed no rent would be due in August and September 2009. Rent would then increase to $6,250 a month from October 2009 to January 2010, before increasing to $15,000 in February 2010.

That rent structure, Reiss said, was a verbal agreement.

Rent, according to a copy of the October 2009 lease, was supposed to be $17,000 a month.

Reiss, in his response, said the company can’t be evicted from the adjacent unit — and cannot collect back rent or damages on that unit — because Ingram Building Co. “cannot establish the boundaries of the real property.”

The Jolly Cricket opened in October 2009 on Fifth Avenue South.

Tony Wood, co-owner of the restaurant, said in a November 2009 Daily News report that the couple decided to open the restaurant after they were approached earlier that year about renting the space.

Tony Wood at the time said they had worked out an agreement with the landlord that made him confident in opening another restaurant.

The Woods also own Jane’s Cafe, 1209 Third St. S. The couple opened the restaurant in December 2005.

The Woods, who at one time operated four restaurants in the Naples area, closed two of them within the last couple of years. They closed Jane's Café downtown on the corner of Ninth Street North and Third Avenue North in December 2009 after major plumbing issues could not be resolved with the plaza's landlord. The couple closed Jane’s in Mission Square on Pine Ridge Road in North Naples late last year after posting a sign on the restaurant that is was closing because of family circumstances.

Fridkin in June notified New Forest Holdings that the suit was set for a nonjury trial. The trial is expected to last about two days, but Reiss said a date for the trial hasn’t been set.

Staff writer Tim Aten contributed to this story.

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