Published Date Written by Craig LyonsDespite an emergency appeal to a federal bankruptcy judge, Three Sons Fishing can no longer stay at its Commercial Street location.
Stuart Norton, owner of Three Sons Fishing, hoped that an appeal to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court would stave off his business's eviction from the Maine Wharf, though Judge James Haines ruled that Great Maine Wharf, LLC., had the legal backing to take possession of the building and require the seafood market to remove its belongings. Haines said it was "crystal clear" that the lease was with a limited liability company and not Norton.
Norton, and Great Maine Wharf were in federal bankruptcy court on Friday since Norton has disputed being locked out of his Commercial Street store after being evicted from the building. Norton asked the court to allow his business to stay on the wharf during his Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
Great Maine Wharf contended that since Norton was not the lessee, his bankruptcy doesn't protect Three Sons from eviction because the lease is in the company's name.
Haines ruled that while Norton is the owner of Three Sons, the lease was not in his name and therefore the business cannot stay in the Commercial Street store.
Attorney Timothy Mauser, who represented Norton, argued that while an April court ruling listed Three Sons Fishing, LLC, as the lessee of the site, preceding leases and documents list Norton as the owner and lessee. In light of Norton being the lessee, Mauser argued that a stay from eviction should be granted by the court.
"... It's a bad argument," Haines said.
Great Maine Wharf sent eviction notices to three tenants — Three Sons, Chase Leavitt and Company and Fresh Atlantic — in October 2011 and cited safety concerns that arose due to the deteriorating wharf.
Chase Leavitt and Company and Fresh Atlantic have since relocated and left Three Sons as the sole tenant.
Three Sons' lease expired at the end of 2011, though a district court ruling allowed the company to remain on the wharf until July 31, 2012.
"We got to July 31 and Three Sons wouldn't move," said attorney David Perkins, who represented Great Maine Wharf.
Great Maine Wharf served Three Sons a writ of possession on Aug. 6 that gave the seafood market 48 hours to vacate the premises, according to court documents; otherwise the property would be considered "abandoned" under state law. If Three Sons wanted to remove its property, the company would have to first contact Great Maine Wharf for their permission.
Norton filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Aug. 7, according to court documents.
Officials of Great Maine Wharf said, in court documents, the filing was made in order to block the eviction process from continuing.
The property owner contended that the structural problems of the wharf pose a significant threat to the public and the tenants, according to court documents. The company states that the concrete floors have rapidly settled, the building is buckling and that the holding tanks are furthering the structural issues, and the premises had to be vacated as soon as possible.
During the past week, Perkins said, the floor has dropped about a foot and there's some concern that the weight from the seafood market might cause the pier to collapse if the contents of the building aren't removed soon.
Perkins said in light of the deteriorating condition of the pier, he planned on asking for a shortening of the seven-day period for Three Sons to collect their property.
Haines said any adjustments to the timeframe for Three Sons to recover the property is best handled in state court since it has jurisdiction over landlord tenant issues.