Liberty Square says Applebee's fighting to keep Panera from building

By Chris Dickerson | Feb 12, 2014

WINFIELD – The developer of a Putnam County shopping center is suing one of its occupants that apparently wants to keep Panera Bread from locating there.

Four-S Development LLC filed its lawsuit Jan. 22 in Putnam Circuit Court against Kentucky-based Neighborhood Hospitality Inc. doing business as Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar at Liberty Square Shopping Center.

Four-S sold property to the defendant’s predecessor (Apple South Inc.) in 1996. In that covenant, Four-S agreed to not allow any full service casual dining restaurant similar to Applebee’s to open at Liberty Square. That includes Bennigan’s, Fuddruckers, TGI Friday’s, Houston’s, Chili’s, Ruby Tuesday’s, O’Charley’s, Max & Erma’s, according to the complaint. It does not include restaurants where at least 51 percent of the menu is related to a single food item such as beef, chicken or seafood or a single type of cuisine such as Italian, Mexican or Chinese.

Now, Four-S is in the process of leasing and locating a Panera Bread bakery and café at Liberty Square near Applebee’s. Four-S says Applebee’s has said it believes locating a Panera Bread at Liberty Square violates the covenant.

“Defendant will pursue all legal remedies available if Panera Bread is permitted to begin construction or take possession of property in Liberty Square,” the complaint states.

Four-S “strongly disputes” that Panera Bread or a similar type of restaurant violates the agreement, noting that all of the listed examples in the covenant serve food and wine, beer or alcoholic beverages.

“Panera Bread bakeries and cafes, no matter where located, do not serve food and wine, beer or alcoholic beverages,” the complaint states, noting other differences. “Panera Bread does not offer: white linen table cloth service or cloth napkins, wait persons taking orders and serving patrons tableside and otherwise attending to patrons’ needs and requests; or steaks, ribs, chops, hamburgers, fish and side items offered by defendant …”

Four-S seeks a declaratory judgment to “terminate the uncertainty and controversy giving rise to this proceeding,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff desires to proceed with its plan to lease and locate Panera Bread in Liberty Square.” It also seeks court costs and attorneys fees associated with this action.

Four-S is represented by Jonathan Nicol of the Charleston office of Kay Casto & Chaney. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Joseph Reeder.

Putnam Circuit Court case number 14-C-15

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