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Lawsuit Claims Landlord Is Trying To Drive P.J. Clarke's Out Of Downtown Site

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The famed P.J. Clarke's restaurant chain filed a lawsuit against the landlord at its Lower Manhattan space Tuesday, claiming that the property owner tried to drive away customers in an effort to get the restaurant out.

The lawsuit against Brookfield Office Properties was announced Tuesday in a news release. The suit claimed the property owner "engaged in a long and deliberate campaign" to drive the restaurant out of its location at 250 Vesey St. at Brookfield Place – formerly known as the World Financial Center.

The suit claimed that the property owner planned renovations of the surrounding land to keep customers from coming to the restaurant, the release said. Among the allegations was that Brookfield put up sidewalk sheds and barricades to block the view of the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty from the restaurant, and made it hard to get into the restaurant from inside the building.

The suit also claimed that Brookfield allowed food trucks to park outside the restaurant, the release said.

As a result of the actions, revenue at the restaurant has dropped 50 percent, the lawsuit alleged.

"This is another example of a greedy landlord trying to push a New York City institution out of business," P.J. Clarke's spokesman Hank Sheinkopf said in the news release. "We're not going to let them get away with it. It's not just about our rights as tenants. It's also about protecting a New York City icon and a wonderful part of the neighborhood."

The Lower Manhattan P.J. Clarke's location opened in 2006, five years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which destroyed the nearby Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The restaurant became a major draw to the neighborhood, but development in the ensuing years allegedly led Brookfield to consider finding a higher-end tenant for a higher rental price, the release said.

The suit claimed restaurant owners specifically want a Patsis bistro in the spot.

Brookfield allegedly asked P.J. Clarke's if it would move to a different location or split the space in half, but P.J. Clarke's refused, the suit alleged. P.J. Clarke's also would not agree to be bought out of its 15-year lease, the release said.

The suit also alleged that Brookfield cut phone lines and allowed leaks to "destroy" restaurant property, the release said.

The lawsuit asked for $40 million in damages and legal fees.

The original P.J. Clarke's opened in 1884, and remains in operation at 915 Third Ave. at 55th Street. P.J. Clarke's also operates a location across from Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side and in Woodbury, Long Island, and there are also P.J. Clarke's restaurants in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Las Vegas,; and São Paulo, Brazil.

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