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Two lawsuits rock the harbor in Port San Luis

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A pair of lawsuits filed by former business owners in Port San Luis levels accusations of collusion against the Port San Luis Harbor District and a key business in the small harbor community.

The Alcove Unique Gifts Inc., which operated the Port Harford Chanderly and Pub in a building owned by the harbor district, accuses the Port San Luis Boatyard LLC—a subcontractor that leased part of the building—of breaching the terms of its contract and intentionally working to undermine the Alcove’s lease agreement with the harbor district. The Alcove opened in 2010 and leased the entire building, subcontracting to three other businesses—a coffee shop, a kayak and paddle sport rental shop, and the Boatyard, which operates a bait shop and two hoists that lift boats into the water. The Alcove’s gift shop and pub closed in June 2015 after its five-year lease expired and wasn’t renewed. The kayak rental shop and Boatyard both remain.

Each lawsuit seeks $550,000 in damages from the respective defendants—the Boatyard and the harbor district—for revenue lost after the Alcove’s lease was not extended.

Shell Beach attorney Brian Kreowski, whose family operated the Alcove, filed the complaint against the Boatyard in January. In his complaint, Kreowski, a former Port San Luis Harbor commissioner, accused the Boatyard’s owners of going behind the Alcove’s back and working to sabotage the lease agreement before the Alcove had a chance to apply for a lease renewal. In doing so, Kreowski alleges that the Boatyard’s owners engaged in unprofessional conduct and colluded with harbor district staff and commissioners to do so.

“Defendants and their co-conspirators have been witnesses and recorded on audio and video making derogatory remarks about plaintiff, its agents, and representatives at official district hearings,” the complaint read. “All of this indicates a premeditated campaign by [the Boatyard] to undermine and discredit [the Alcove] with the aim of preventing the renewal of [the Alcove’s] concession agreement and usurping it.” 

In a response, the Boatyard’s attorney, Jeffrey Stulberg, wrote that all accusations of wrongdoing are false and without merit, and that the Boatyard’s interest in expanding their space within the building—an original bone of contention between the two businesses—was motivated by an interest in expanding the business.

Stulberg pointed out that in the end, the Alcove never actually applied to get its lease extended.

“My clients have not engaged in any conduct of any kind which will be deemed unlawful or have caused economic harm to the plaintiffs,” Stulberg told New Times. “The defendants are being sued for being granted a contract with the harbor district that the plaintiffs didn’t bid for.”

Stulberg wouldn’t comment on the specific allegations because the matter is currently under litigation. 

In April, the Alcove filed a similar suit accusing certain harbor commissioners of violating open public meeting laws and conflict of interest rules, alleging that harbor commissioners had shared confidential information with the Boatyard owners and were inappropriately involved in a process in which they were financially interested.

The district hasn’t been served, so the suit is not yet active.

Jeff Minnery, the harbor district’s attorney, said that because they have not yet been served, the district has no response to the accusations. 

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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