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Court decision paves way for displaced pizza shop's trial

January 18, 2016

Enzo Pizza’s long-simmering legal battle with the Indianapolis City Market finally is headed to trial after the eatery won a partial court victory this month against its former landlord.

Parent Enzo Pizza Inc. sued City Market in April 2011 in Marion Superior Court claiming “wrongful eviction.” The dispute stems from the construction of a bicycle hub in the historic downtown building’s east wing, displacing Enzo.

To accommodate the hub, City Market directors tried to move the pizzeria into new space near the west entrance of the main building. Enzo, however, refused to operate in the new spot and never reopened. It had been a tenant at City Market for nearly 20 years.

The restaurant claims in its suit that City Market verbally agreed not to “forcibly” move it to another space in the main building until its lease could be amended.

City Market in February 2015 asked Judge Heather Welch to dismiss Enzo’s suit on summary judgment, arguing in part that Enzo failed to satisfy certain notification requirements when suing a governmental entity.

Welch disagreed, saying in her Jan. 11 decision that Enzo did indeed satisfy the notification requirements of a tort filing.

Enzo’s attorney, Clifford Rubenstein, sent notification by letter to the city of Indianapolis, former Mayor Greg Ballard and to the directors of the departments of public works and metropolitan development, in addition to City Market attorney Bryce Bennett, according to court documents.

City Market argued in its summary judgment filing that notification of the suit should have been sent to City Market directly.

“Merely addressing the notice to ‘City of Indianapolis’ — who is likely to foot the bill for any potential judgment by City Market’s own admission — given the context of the notice and the facts contained within is unlikely to deprive City Market and their counsel of the ability to properly and promptly investigate Enzo Pizza’s claim,” Welch wrote.

City Market, however, won on its claim that it should be considered a government entity going forward, granting it certain protections. The city of Indianapolis rents the facility to City Market for $1 per month, pays the utility bills and oversees operations with a 13-member board appointed by the mayor and the City-County Council.

Rubenstein could not be reached for comment. Based on the court’s ruling, Bennett declined to comment on City Market’s strategy for defending the case.

A jury trial is set for June 7. Enzo does not specify an exact amount of damages but says it is seeking lost profits from April 2011, when it stopped operating at City Market, through Jan. 31, 2014, when its last lease expired.

Enzo declined to move to new space in City Market because it was smaller than the restaurant’s previous location. Enzo further complained that City Market never provided architectural or construction plans for the space.

Enzo had been a tenant at City Market since 1992. The family-owned, Indianapolis-based chain has six locations, including two in Indianapolis and one in Franklin.

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