January 11, 2017

Nix's CT restaurants face unpaid rent, other lawsuits

Photo | Heather Conley Photography LLC
Photo | Heather Conley Photography LLC
Nix's restaurant in downtown Hartford.

Two Nix's restaurants in Connecticut are being sued by landlords in Hartford and South Windsor for falling behind on rent payments, court documents show.

Nix's in Hartford and Nix's Kitchen in South Windsor owe tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid rent, according to lawsuits filed in Hartford Superior Court. Nix's Managing Partner Abner Kurtin says the lawsuits stem from financial problems the restaurant is experiencing as a result of a foul odor infiltrating its Hartford property, which is hurting business.

Kurtin told Hartford Business Journal Wednesday that an intermittent odor similar to rotten eggs is emanating from somewhere outside Nix's Hartford's Front Street location, a problem that emerged in early spring. Neighboring Hartford restaurant Capital Grille also experienced the odor but got rid of it using charcoal filters on vents, he said. That step and air purification haven't worked at Nix's, however, Kurtin said, and the source of the odor has not been identified.

As a result, fewer customers have frequented the Hartford location, creating cash flow problems that have led to a tangle of lawsuits, he said.

Nix's South Windsor landlord, Evergreen Walk Lifestyle Center LLC, filed suit Oct. 19 alleging it is owed $160,104 in rent, while Hartford landlord HBN Front Street District Inc. on Dec. 5 filed suit seeking more than $61,000 in overdue rent.

Kurtin has since filed a countersuit against his restaurant's Hartford landlord, in an effort to prevent eviction and resolve the situation.

"We needed additional money to complete paying for the South Windsor location and our investors have basically frozen the funds until there's resolution of the odor issue in Hartford and the lawsuits related to it," Kurtin said.

"Since the odor came in [at the Front Street location], business has been down about 30 percent and we're a mature restaurant, we're entering our third year of business and we have a stable customer base," he said. "This was really the only change."

Later this month, a judge will determine whether to try the case between Nix's and HBN Front Street District Inc. in Superior Court where the case is filed or in housing court, where landlord-tenant complaints are typically adjudicated.

"I think it's stupid we're in court," he said. "I don't understand why we can't work with the state and city to mediate this problem."

The counterclaim also states Nix's Hartford is not only losing income daily but, if evicted, stands to lose "considerable sums" invested in the property since it opened more than two years ago. Kurtin puts that sum at $1.6 million.

In addition, he noted that Evergreen Walk owes Nix's Kitchen in South Windsor $170,000 for investments made to fix up the property there, but Kurtin acknowledges he failed to properly document those claims. He is working to settle that claim, he said.

To date, Nix's Hartford has hosted events related to the holidays, Gay Pride, and other popular activities, and built up a favorable reputation, Kurtin said.

"The space is attractive," he said. "People like the product. We think the future is quite bright. We just need to get past this large speed bump. We have the financing [committed] from investors. We just need to resolve this issue."

Attorneys for Evergreen Walk and HBN Front Street District Inc. did not return calls seeking comment.

Nix's also faces two vendor lawsuits. Last July, food service provider Trimark United East of Rhode Island sued alleging it was owed $24,944 worth of goods and services it hadn't been paid for by Nix's Kitchen LLC in South Windsor. Sysco Boston filed a similar lawsuit in October against Nix's Hartford LLC alleging it is owed $32,349 for unpaid goods and services.

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