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Burned over burgers — The story behind a CityPlace eatery’s shutdown


Highlights

A Burger & Beer Joint franchisee claims the parent company made up a reason to oust it from CityPlace.

The Bristol condo’s sales hit 70 percent as plans for spillover garage take shape

Business, like burgers, can be messy.

Take the case of the Burger & Beer Joint restaurant at CityPlace in West Palm Beach. The eatery closed abruptly on Jan. 4. The burger chain, known for its rock ‘n roll theme, kept mum about the reason for shutting down.

Then on April 11, B&B reappeared at CityPlacetaking over the food at Frank Entertainment Company’s Revolutions bowling alley. The partnership between B&B and Frank Entertainment started late last year at other Frank Entertainment locations and continues to expand.

Now the franchisee for the shuttered CityPlace B&B location says the store’s closure was part of a scheme by B&B’s parent company to oust it from the West Palm Beach dining center so it could do the deal with Revolutions.

This month, Franchising Development Group, LLC, filed a demand for arbitration against B&B’s parent company, Boca Raton-based Burger & Beer Joint LLC. The documents allege fraud and breach of contract, among other claims.

Franchising Development Group says B&B revoked its right to use the name, menu and concept at CityPlace and other stores after a failed December 2016 mediation, which prompted a flurry of letters in early January that led to the shutdown.

Also terminated was a high-profile location on South Beach. FDG said B&B cited the presence of a gay bar on the second floor of the space as the reason for the termination. The franchisee called this move “discriminatory” and “surprising,” because it says B&B was aware of the bar’s presence and had never objected to it until after the failed mediation.

In its demand for arbitration, FDG says B&B and principals Tony Hannan and William Herman pledged support and guidance when FDG bought two company-owned stores in Miami-Dade County, plus the right to open franchise stores in Florida and Puerto Rico.

FDG now says these were broken promises. Although it was assured 162 hours of classroom and on-the-job training, FDG said it received zero training. A B&B operations manual wasn’t any help, either: It was cut-and-pasted from manuals for sushi and Mexican restaurants, FDG claims.

Making matters worse, soon after selling the franchise locations, B&B moved the company into the movie theater and bowling alley business — and away from a nationwide franchise roll-out, as promised.

With the company’s new direction, the franchisees were left “to die on the vine in a desolate franchise system,” the arbitration claim alleges.

Big money is involved here: About $12 million, said the franchisee’s lawyer, Leon Hirzel of Miami.

At CityPlace alone, FDG poured $1.5 million into the restaurant for franchise fees, plus construction and lease costs, according to the arbitration demand.

B&B’s Herman didn’t return a phone call or email for comment. But B&B documents tell a story different from FDG’s claims.

In a letter sent to the FDG franchisees on Jan. 3, B&B’s lawyers said it was terminating the franchise agreement at CityPlace because of the franchisees’ failure to use approved supplies and make payments to B&B.

Hirzel responded that B&B was seeking to “manufacture claims against the franchisee to deflect attention away from its own misconduct.”

Frank Entertainment’s Bruce Frank isn’t bothered by the B&B kerfuffle.

He’s excited about B&B’s food at Revolutions, as well as its signature bar, Flair Street. The bar offers craft cocktails made by bartenders flipping bottles and performing other acrobatic acts of libation.

Last September, Frank Entertainment announced Burger & Beer Joint would be taking over the food at its CineBowl & Grille, in the Delray Marketplace in suburban Delray Beach.

Frank said Burger & Beer Joint also will be featured in a planned CineBowl & Grille at Abacoa in Jupiter. The $21 million entertainment complex will feature a bowling alley and 12 auditoriums with 1,073 reclining seats, including an IMAX.

The Bristol’s sales at 70 percent

Unit sales atThe Bristol condominium, an ultra-luxury condo being built on West Palm Beach’s waterfront, is up to 70 percent, according to development partner Al Adelson. The high-end condominium is ahead of schedule and set to begin pouring its 5th floor in May.

The 25-story, 69-unit building at 1112 S. Flagler Drive is the most expensive condominium ever built in Palm Beach County. The average size of a unit at The Bristol is about 4,500 square feet and costs $10 million.

The project’s success is prompting a minor expansion of its footprint, with The Bristol planning to lease a garage that will be built on land across the street.

The land, at 901 S. Flagler Drive, is owned by First Baptist Church and occupied by Samaritan Gardens. That’s an old apartment complex now being used by Palm Beach Atlantic University for male student housing. About 80 students live there.

Samaritan Gardens will be torn down to make way for the garage at the end of PBAU’s school year in May 2018, said Kevin Mahoney, First Baptist associate pastor.

“The buildings at this point are in disrepair,” Mahoney said. “Something needs to be done with this it.”

So that something will be a garage.

The idea came about after the The Bristol approached the church about using the land for parking. The church agreed to build the garage and lease it to the Bristol for 25 years.

Adelson said the Bristol needs extra parking for event space it has along the Intracoastal Waterway. “We could seat up to 200 people for a party or charity event, and it dawned on us: Where are we going to park?”

Plans are to build a one-story parking garage with a roof. The property will be surrounded by trees and shrubs, Adelson said.

After the 25-year lease ends, who knows what will happen with the property? Mahoney joked that the garage might not be needed because people might not even be driving cars by then.

Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law.



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