Luma on Park has filed a lawsuit against William T. Battaglia and Foundry Commercial, a Florida limited liability company, in an attempt to reclaim its original location at 290 S. Park Avenue in Winter Park.
The suit, which was filed last month in Orange County, alleges: “This case arises out of Bill Battaglia’s improper attempt to use Luma, a fine dining institution on Winter Park’s acclaimed Park Avenue for 15 years, as [an] unsuspecting pawn in his diabolical plan to inflict financial pain and suffering upon his family members, with whom he is tied through a multitude of family companies and trusts…”
Battaglia and his brother, Robert, are the principals of Battaglia Group, which was Luma’s landlord.
Luma closed in September after a lengthy negotiation to renew its lease, according to Tim Noelke, Luma’s longtime manager and a principal of Park Lights, the entity that operates Luma, Prato and Luke’s.
The suit claims Bill Battaglia used Luma as a “pawn” in his efforts to “deem himself the ‘winner’ in negotiations with Luma for the renewal option and in the aftermath of the catastrophic Covid-19 global pandemic.”
The suit continues: “In so doing, Bill Battaglia violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act…and tortiously interfered with Luma’s advantageous contract with Landlord, causing substantial damage to Luma.”
Battaglia is accused of conspiring with Foundry, a real estate services and investment company in Orlando, to interfere with Luma’s “mutually-beneficial and long-term relationship with Landlord, with Foundry committing overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy, and with harm befalling Luma as a result of the conspiracy.” Foundry managed the premises on behalf of the Battaglia Group, according to the suit.
A spokeswoman for Foundry did not immediately return calls for comment. Bill Battaglia did not respond to a voicemail left for him.
Luma, in the complaint, contends that it tried to initiate lease renegotiations in 2017 with no response for nearly two years, only to have Bill Battaglia propose a 92 percent increase a couple of months before the pandemic forced restaurants to close. According to the lease agreement attached as an exhibit to the filing, Luma was paying $38 per square foot for the facilities on the ground floor and another $3.93 per square foot for the basement area. Noelke, reached by phone Friday afternoon, said he expected a rent increase after so many years but not one that extreme. “Restaurants can’t survive at 60 (dollars) a square foot,” he said.
The lawsuit is asking for monetary damages from both Bill Battaglia and Foundry as well as being able to operate Luma from the property again.
It has been announced that Mila, a restaurant group from Miami Beach, will operate a restaurant called Ava in the space. As recently as Thursday, a press release was sent to local media, including Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide, with scant details about the proposed restaurant but stating that “(b)uild out activity is underway…”
The press release was sent by Foundry Commercial and included photos of Mila, the Miami Beach restaurant, but no renderings for Ava.