The owner of the now-closed downtown restaurant Morocco's is suing his old landlords, blaming them for driving him out of business by handing down massive rent increases.
In his new lawsuit, Morocco's owner Jawad Essadki alleges that GPR Ventures, the investment firm that owned his former restaurant site, had engaged in a "systematic plan" to force him to close. He alleges they tried to pass their property tax increases onto him by taking advantage of ambiguous terms in his lease.
In a past story about this conflict in the Voice, Essadki said the landlord had retroactively doubled his rent, increasing it from $4,000 to $8,400 a month without telling him. He said he first learned of this in February 2017, when GPR attorneys wrote to him demanding he pay $43,000 for falling behind in his lease payments. Morocco's abruptly closed down a couple months later.
In his suit, Essadki alleges that his landlord was intentionally trying to drive him out of business in order to rent out his space to a new tenant at market rate. He also blames his landlord for tarnishing the reputation of his business and for failing to maintain their property. Today, the Morocco's space remains unoccupied.
In his legal complaint, Essadki indicated the total damages to his business are in excess of $1 million, including the early termination of his lease, his lost business and the "destruction of goodwill" that he suffered. Essadki is representing himself in the suit, according to his court filings.
Pat Kelley, an attorney representing GPR Ventures, declined to comment on the case. GPR partners previously denied any wrongdoing to the Voice, and said they were considering their own lawsuit against Essadki for failing to pay his overdue rent.
The lawsuit is scheduled for a case management conference in early August.