Monessen evicts Castle Blood, Mon Net Cafe
The City of Monessen is evicting two businesses from its rental properties, including Castle Blood — a popular year-round haunted attraction.
Monessen Mayor Lou Mavrakis said he and council authorized the eviction of Castle Blood, operated by Ricky Dick, because of an unauthorized lease issued by the previous administration.
In addition, the city sent an eviction notice to Ernie Telegraphis of the Mon Net Café, reportedly because of $2,660 in unpaid rent from November through February.
Castle Blood occupies the second floor at the Eastgate 11 building while Mon Net Café is on the left side of the first floor.
The Castle Blood lease, issued by former city administrator John Harhai and Mayor Mary Jo Smith in November 2012, required Dick to pay $100 a year for five years. The city has been paying utility bills for the site, according to Mavrakis and city Solicitor Al Gaudio.
“The people of Monessen need to know this was going on,” Mavrakis said Monday. “I'd be willing to sell my home, move in there with my wife and stay there, and let the city pay my utilities.”
Telegraphis' lease lists rent at $665 per month, while Ron Mozer of Crystalline Technologies LLC, which occupies a first-floor space, pays $988 per month, according to city records.
Gaudio said the basis for the Castle Blood eviction was twofold.
“Number one, it was never approved by council. ... Anytime you transfer real estate from a city, it's a legislative act and it needs to be approved,” Gaudio said.
“The second thing is, in my opinion, you can't just give city-owned property away. When you lease something of that value for $100 a year and the city pays utility costs, that's the equivalent of a giveaway.”
Gaudio said that if the Castle Blood decision lands the city in court, he is authorized to defend the action.
“You always have to do what is in the best interest of the city, and $100 a year is unreasonable for almost all real estate,” Gaudio said. “In essence, it puts the city in a hole.”
Mavrakis said it was not his intention to put Dick “out on the street” and that he's willing to work on relocating the attraction.
Reached by phone Monday, Dick indicated he is willing to work with Mavrakis and the city to relocate.
“An eviction notice seems harsh, but we were never going to be there forever. The city owns it. It's a rental,” Dick said. “We were very lucky and grateful that the former administration took us in and helped us out. From the talks I've had with (Gaudio), it seems like the new administration has nothing against me, they just want their building back.”
Castle Blood was recently featured on NBC News in a feature on haunted house attractions for Valentine's Day. More than 60 volunteer performers help conduct tours of the attraction.
“I got a crazy, ridiculous deal, because I was to bring thousands of people into Monessen, which we did,” Dick said. “While I'm not originally from Monessen, I certainly feel like I have roots there.”
According to Gaudio, Castle Blood has 30 days to vacate.
But Dick, who just staged a Valentine's Day event Saturday to benefit the Monessen No. 1 Fire Department, said he hopes the city allows him some flexibility. Dick said he recently purchased a home in Monessen.
“I'm already involved in the community, so this is a little ironic. But they need their building back,” Dick said. “If I can work with the new administration to stay (in the city), I'm going to stay. My first choice is to stay in Monessen, but I'm positive we'll stay in the Mon Valley.”
As for Telegraphis, who opened Mon Net Café in fall 2012, Gaudio said: “He's been defiant. He doesn't want to pay, and council has given me the authorization to evict him.”
Telegraphis sent a letter to Mavrakis and council dated Feb. 12 stating business had been slowed by the winter weather and that he intended to catch up with rent “within the next four to five months.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Perfect storm rains heroin, pain pills onto Mon Valley
- ArcelorMittal notified of potential lawsuit
- Cops: North Charleroi home invasion suspect IDs himself
- Selective storm hits parts of Mon Valley
- Summer youth program in Donora bridges gap between young, old
- 2 Monessen men arrested on drug charges in Donora
- Monongahela uses modern technology to connect people to the city’s historic past
- Donora resident celebrates her 104th birthday with family
- Law enforcement often feels overwhelmed by Mon Valley’s heroin epidemic
- North Belle Vernon man to stand trial for allegedly harassing police