A months-long landlord-tenant dispute between chef Matthew Kenney and Karla Dascal, owner of The Sacred Space Miami, has escalated in the courts, as the popular vegan restaurant, Plant Food and Wine, remains open for business.
Kenney’s business entity, Plant-Based Restaurant Miami, filed a counter-claim in the 11th District Circuit Court of Miami-Dade on Wednesday, seeking unspecified damages, interest, costs and attorney’s fees. It also seeks the return of equipment, including point of sale systems, china and high-end cookware, to Kenney’s entity.
The counter-claim asserts that Kenney tried to renegotiate his “punitive lease” in good faith but that his acclaimed restaurant and its intellectual property were wrongfully “hijacked” by Dascal’s The 999 Limited, an action that generated “an unearned windfall” for Dascal. The filing also seeks a jury trial.
Among the allegations, the counter-claim said that New Way’s principals took over Plant Food and Wine Miami’s website, its social media accounts and other intellectual property, “passing off PBRM’s accomplishments as its own,” and took possession of equipment in the dead of night. Kenney also alleges trademark infringement and breach of contract.
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The counter-claim was filed by Benjamin H. Brodsky of Brodsky Fotiu-Wojtowicz, counsel for Plant-Based Restaurant Miami.
“The counterclaim is without legal or factual merit, and a response will be filed in due course,” said Deborah Baker-Egozi of Greenspoon Marder, Dascal’s counsel, on Wednesday.
In its complaint filed in the same court in March, Dascal’s company alleges multiple breaches of the five-year lease, including opening a similar competing restaurant in the market, according to Miami Herald coverage about that lawsuit and a trail of other lawsuits and liens against Kenney and his companies around the country and in Thailand.
Baker-Egozi has said that Dascal funded the $2 million buildout of Plant Food and Wine and called it a turnkey operation when Kenney signed the lease and opened the restaurant in early 2016. Dascal took possession July 1 and has been paying the staff, she said. The adjacent culinary school has closed.
Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg