NEWBURYPORT — Former Commune Cafe owner Bruce Vogel will soon face legal action from his former landlord who claims he owes more than $33,000 in rent and other expenses, according to a complaint filed in court. Newburyport District Court.
The lawsuit, which was filed March 2, says Vogel “abandoned the premises” around November 8 without paying Tracy Place Limited Partnership $32,500 in rent and $849 in parking fees. In addition to unpaid rent and fees, the Salisbury-based property company is seeking damages, interest, costs and attorneys’ fees.
Vogel, who is a General Councillor, owns two other local cafes, Plum Island Coffee Roasters along the waterfront and Soufflés in the Market Square.
Last month, Vogel was told to vacate the Plum Island Coffee Roasters location by the end of March by owner Newburyport Development to make way for a Mexican-style canteen slated to open in the fall.
News of Plum Island Coffee Roasters’ impending demise prompted widespread condemnation of the Newburyport development and led to over 15,200 people signing an online petition in the hope of saving the business.
Vogel, who said he has not yet received the complaint from Tracy Place Limited Partnership, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
“I don’t know,” he said Friday.
On Friday, Judge Peter Doyle granted Tracy Place Limited Partnership lawyer John Andrews’ motion to appoint a constable to serve Vogel with the complaint.
In a phone interview, Andrews said Vogel would likely be serviced by the middle of next week.
The Commune Cafe closed in October after Vogel’s attempts to sell the business failed. In a statement sent to the Daily News shortly before the cafe closed, Vogel said COVID-19 restrictions had severely hurt business. Worse still, unlike its other two cafes, Commune Cafe did not have a robust take-out item.
“After all, the name of the place is Commune – it’s a verb – and without us offering a place to do so, we are not the same destination,” Vogel said in the October statement. “Also, without the cooperation of my landlord, committing to the cost of creating the partitions necessary to comply with the distancing rules is simply not an option.”
The commune closed when the pandemic first hit in mid-March, and Vogel said in the statement that he had been unable to pay his rent since April. The cafe reopened in late June but was only able to do a third of what it was doing before COVID-19 hit, he said.
In October, the property’s listing agent reported rent for the approximately 1,800 square foot cafe to be around $5,000 per month. To date, the space remains unoccupied.
Editor Dave Rogers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.