Lawsuit forces Jimmy’s Southside Tavern to close
Sunday was the last day that Jimmy’s Southside Tavern in Darien was open for business. The business, on 340 Heights Road in Darien, closed for good Monday, March 16.
Within a few hours of their Facebook post announcing the closing, there have been 85 responses, 30 comments and six shares.
According to a lawsuit that took place between Noroton Heights Shopping Center — which represents the landlord — and Phil’s Grill, which was the prior name of Jimmy’s Southside Tavern, the court ordered the owners of Jimmy’s to immediately evacuate the business.
Jimmy’s is owned by James Calcagnini.
The lawsuit involves the owner’s plans to redevelop the Noroton Heights Shopping Center, which includes razing the existing buildings west of Palmer’s Market and building two three-story buildings with 59 residential units and first-floor retail, complete with a public plaza. It was originally approved in May 2017 by Planning & Zoning.
According to an 11-page memorandum of the decision after the trial, which was held on March 11 in the Judicial Court of Stamford/Norwalk, the parties in the lawsuit had a written lease that once allowed for Jimmy’s possession of the premises.
The memorandum states that “Technically, under the lease’s term, the subject would have had a right to possess the subject premises through Sept. 30, 2020. However the parties knew at the time of execution of the lease and the amendment thereto that the plaintiff was planning to redevelop the entire shopping center of which the defendant was just one tenant.”
According to the memorandum, Noroton Heights Shopping Center continually attempted to involve Jimmy’s owners in its relocation plans, and hoped to provide him with an alternate location.
The memorandum further said the court believes that Noroton Heights Shopping Center received the “runaround, slowing down its attempted redevelopment.”
The shopping center, after unsuccessfully negotiating for over a year with Jimmy’s, gave up on its “phased in” redevelopment plan and decided to redevelop the shopping plaza all at once, according to the memorandum.
“The court believes that had the defendants ever expressed a desire to proceed with a move, the plaintiff would never have reached this business decision,” the memorandum said.
“By refusing to act in good faith as to the relocation plan, the defendants violated the express language of the lease and left the plaintiff with no option other than to terminate the lease and proceed with this action. The court truly believes that even though the defendant’s witnesses spoke the words about their good faith at the trial, they lacked credibility when doing so,” the memorandum said.
It further said the court can’t find any reason why Jimmy’s would behave this way, other than “being that last tenant to receive the largest payday.”
When reached for comment on the business’ closure, Jim Love, who operated the business, said they closed due to slower business from the coronavirus outbreak, as well as the area around his business “looking like a construction site with bulldozers all over the place.”
Love ran the business for eight years. When it first opened in 2010, it was called Phil’s Grill.
The business is owned by Calcagnini and his wife, DeAnne.
Popular items on the menu, according to Love, were lobster roll, clam chowder, steaks, and burgers.
A new chapter
Love, who has moved to Charleston, SC, will now be helping his children out in their own restaurant business.
They own a french bistro called Maison, which just celebrated its one year anniversary.
The anniversary party was attended by over 100 people, according to Love.
He said Charleston is a “beautiful area.”
“It’s still booming here,” he said.
Love said he has always loved the restaurant business. “If you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life,” he said.
Now that his children are also in the restaurant business, “how can I ask for more?” he said.
Despite being near his children and grandchildren, and still being to work in an industry he loves, Love reflected that Jimmy’s closing is still hard for him.
“I’ve been in the restaurant business for 45 years, since I was 17 years old when I worked at The Huddle in Stamford,” he said. “It’s a bittersweet feeling to close our chapter.”
The staff at Jimmy’s became “like family,” according to Love. “That’s the toughest part. It’s a very loyal group. They have continued to come to work every day. They have been a privilege to work with.”