Restaurant Row couple sues Mark Hunt, others in federal court | AspenTimes.com

Restaurant Row couple sues Mark Hunt, others in federal court

The building at 308 E. Cooper Ave. is at the heart of a federal lawsuit filed this week by Michael Sedoy and Natalia Shvachko, who are suing Aspen developer Mark Hunt, the Pitkin County trustee, an Aspen law firm, Alpine Bank, an ownership group, and Bootsy Bellows and its owner.

Developer Mark Hunt is among a bevy of defendants in a federal lawsuit filed this week by a New York couple who own a penthouse on Aspen's restaurant row.

Michael Sedoy and Natalia Shvachko of New York City introduced their complaint in the U.S. District Court of Denver on Wednesday, two days after the couple's attorney withdrew a legal action in Pitkin County District Court making similar allegations.

The federal case, however, not only concerns the noise coming from their basement neighbor, nightclub and restaurant Bootsy Bellows, which had been targeted in a contempt-of-court motion in county court.

The suit also seeks an injunction to prevent Pitkin County Trustee Tom Oken and Alpine Bank from proceeding on a foreclosure sale on two commercial and three affordable-housing units in the 308 E. Hopkins Ave. building, where the couple's two-level penthouse also is located, so they can fully collect on a $1.28 million judgment owed to them by the building's cash-strapped owner, JW Ventures. The couple also have a $1.28 million lien on the units owned by JW Ventures.

The county took steps to foreclose on the JW Venture-owned units July 17. The sale is scheduled Nov. 18.

"Should the foreclosure sale proceed as now scheduled, the amount obtained at such sale would not be enough to satisfy the Sedoys' lien," the suit says.

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The suit also says Hunt, who has the building in question under contract to purchase for $6 million, made a $500,000 cash down payment to JW Ventures in February 2014. But the payment actually was a loan to help fund JW Ventures' legal defense when it went to trial against the couple in October 2014, the suit claims. The $500,000 also helped get JW Ventures out of the threat of foreclosure at the time, the suit says.

Hunt, the suit alleges, visited the Sedoys in New York in May 2014 to discuss their legal issues with JW Ventures.

"Instead of solving the (building's) access issue or withdrawing from the purchase transaction, Mr. Hunt, upon information and belief, proceeded to effectively finance JW Ventures' defense in the Pitkin County lawsuit through advancing $500,000 to JW Ventures," the suit says.

The October 2014 trial led to a May order from Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols awarding the couple $1.28 million from building owner JW Ventures LLC, which was found to have wrongly assured them they would have exclusive rights to the building's front entrance, east stairway and main elevator. The judge also ruled that the couple violated a city of Aspen ordinance by barring renters of affordable-housing units in the building from using the access.

The federal suit rehashes the couple's issues with JW Ventures and its principals — Charles Cunniffe, James Farmer and John Provine — as well as with Bootsy Bellows and its owner, Andrew Sandler. Bootsy Bellows should not have been allowed to replace restaurant Syzygy because it's a nightclub and violates the building's declarations, the suit says.

On Thursday, Sandler said he and others have done all they can to work out an amicable agreement with the couple. He also said Bootsy Bellows is as much a restaurant as its predecessor Syzygy was.

"This is bulls—," he said. "How egregious is their behavior? At what point do you attempt to acclimate yourself to a community rather than keep fighting it and segregating yourself through litigation?"

Sandler has hoped the noise issue was over since the couple's attorney, Thomas Bell of Denver, withdrew the contempt-of-court complaint earlier this week.

"We have been serving food since the day we opened and never ceased to do that," he said. "We are a restaurant and no different than Syzygy — we serve food and fun."

Sandler was the only person to comment for this story. Messages left with Hunt, Bell, and the attorney for JW Ventures were not returned Thursday. That attorney, Corey Zurbuch, works for Aspen law firm Oates, Knezevich, Gardenswartz, Kelly & Morrow PC, which also is a defendant in the suit, along with Oken and Alpine Bank.

The Sedoy couple bought two condos at 308 E. Hopkins for $6.27 million in June 2011, later spending another $2 million to combine them into a penthouse, the federal suit says.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com