Chuck's sues developer who plans to tear down landmark University Hill bar

Syracuse, NY -- The owner for Hungry Chuck's is asking a judge to put the brakes on demolition work planned by a developer who wants to replace the landmark bar with a high rise building.

A lawyer for Chuck's owner Stephen Theobald is due to appear in court at 10 a.m. Tuesday to seek an order that would prohibit asbestos work that would close down the bar for at least a week.

The end appears near for the venerable spot after a new owner filed a termination order ending Chuck's lease in August.

Chuck lease is being terminated to pave the way to demolish the Marshall-street area building for a new, 8-story building with ground-floor retail and student apartments. The lawsuit does not dispute that the owner has the right to shutter the bar for the new building.

But the lawsuit claims that the developer isn't ready to start building, so the termination order should be thrown out, delaying Chuck's closure.

The project is apparently falling behind schedule: the developer had hoped to begin demolition this month so it could open apartments in August 2018 for the beginning of the school year.

But Chuck's lease can't be terminated until August and no early buyout has been negotiated.

The legal wrangling began earlier this month when Chuck's balked as the new owner, 727 S. Crouse Ave., sought to send asbestos-removal teams in to prep the building for demolition. That work was expected to last during Syracuse University's spring recess.

The asbestos work was put on hold after Chuck's filed a lawsuit March 8 seeking a court injunction. The lawsuit expresses concern that the work could contaminate the building and ultimately force Chuck's to close for good, five months earlier than planned.

The bar, which has a longtime following, needs to make as much money as it can before August to weather the closure, the lawsuit states. Shuttering the bar for a week -- or possibly longer -- beforehand was not an option, the lawsuit argues.The spat between Chuck's and the developer has gotten more serious, with Churck's owner Theobald accusing the developer of "strong-arm tactics" and failing to maintain the property in an attempt to convince Chuck's to vacate earlier than planned.

There have been discussions between Chuck's and the developer to close early in exchange for a buyout. But Chuck's is still hoping to be open for the rest of the school year, including for its graduation party.

Chuck's is guaranteed an offer to occupy the new building. But developer Jared Hutter suggested that Chuck's refusal to take the buyout could delay the bar's reopening by a year or more.

Chuck's lawsuit suggests that the new developer doesn't have the financing or other authority it needs to build the new building right now anyway. But Hutter refuted that claim in an interview with The Daily Orange.

Chuck's lawyer, Joshua Werbeck, declined comment.

For now, Theobald appears ready to fight to stay as long as possible.

"Should we reopen elsewhere, our customer base will depend on how many people we touched while we were still on the hill," Theobald wrote in court papers. "The more people we can get into the bar now, the better we expect to be able to perform once we reopen (wherever that may be).

"As a result, Chuck's does not intend to close unless it is forced to do so."


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